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Tuesday, May 24, 2022
HomeLatest NewsMirror of Finland.

Mirror of Finland.

The most vivid image I have of Lappeenranta, a small Finnish town 30 kilometers from the border with Russia, is a noisy old-fashioned bus driven by a man who does not understand English, listening to American music from the 1960s on a cassette and seemed to be driving us to the ends of the world. The image of the place has stopped in time. At least, that was how it seemed in 2006 when EU foreign ministers met there during Finland’s rotating presidency.

The rest of the country, with its colorful designer sofas, model schools and fast Wi-Fi networks, was more like a cliché that we Southern Europeans have developed about Finland. But this border, dark even in the month of September, reminded us that the country is much bigger than Helsinki. It was also a symbol of peace, more like the one on the other side of the border and away from other European partners. Finland’s cultural, historical and sometimes violent relationship with Russia made meetings with Vladimir Putin especially tense. In that 2006, Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen was one of the few who dared to mention to Putin the then murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Most European rulers preferred to focus on meat or butter trade agreements. But Finland knew well who she was dealing with.

Since the 1960s, this country has been preparing by training civilians in emergency situations, building a network of sophisticated bunkers, and maintaining a cautious but not naive relationship with its neighbor. His decision not to join NATO, a defensive alliance, had more to do with his own image than disinterest in an organization whose only practical benefit is a commitment that if the country attacks you, other allies—or rather, those few who has significant combat capability – will protect you. Putin forced a change of position, which few people expected a few months ago.

Now in Lappeenranta, locals feel that something is wrong with their neighbors across the border if the Russians were able to invade Ukraine and wreak havoc on the civilian population with which they share so much history, culture, family and language. all in all. . Putin’s cruel and capricious decision has changed the lives of millions of people outside of Ukraine. For many, joining NATO is a guarantee that Russia will not dare with them. And the reality is that this has been the case, based on experience so far. With the exception of a few and minor incursions into foreign airspace, Putin has been hesitant to do business with neighbors to the east that are members of the EU and NATO. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, at least for now, remain safe.

For years, diplomats and politicians from countries once under the Soviet yoke have complained that we privileged Westerners in Brussels do not understand their fears and traumas. Now, many of those Europeans from the East Central region of the continent still have to put up with “Western-explaining” Western Europeans, Americans or Latin Americans who explain their problems with Russia or why citizens of Ukraine should have fewer rights than citizens of Ukraine. the rest of the Europeans.

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö summed it up nicely when responding to what he would say to Putin about Finland’s bid for NATO membership: “You caused it: look in the mirror.”


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