August 8, 2022

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(Newser) – As world leaders attempt to avoid a war over the Russia-Ukraine standoff, a...


As world leaders attempt to avoid a war over the Russia-Ukraine standoff, a single word has come into wide circulation in recent days: “Finlandization.” Before his talks with the leaders of both nations, French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to suggest it was being considered as a model for a possible solution, though he later backtracked on that. Coverage:

The term: It refers to a deal Finland struck with the Soviet Union in 1948, when tensions between the USSR and the West were high. Slate defines it in broad strokes: The USSR “agreed not to invade Finland, as long as Finland remained militarily neutral and did not join NATO.”
Consequences: As a result of that deal, “Finland survived as an independent and unoccupied democracy in the shadow of the Soviet Union by handing the Kremlin outsized influence over its politics and hewing to a delicate neutrality during the Cold War,” writes Jason Horowitz in the New York Times. Finland is a much more independent nation today, and “Finlandization” no longer applies there. In fact, the term is largely seen as “taboo” in Finland by critics who think leaders granted the USSR too much sway, writes Horowitz.

Macron: Before his talks with Vladimir Putin, Macron said “Finlandization” was “one of the models on the table,” per Politico. As a separate story in the New York Times notes, that put him at odds not only with Ukraine—which wants to join NATO—but with the US, which insists that option remain possible. After his Putin meeting, Macron walked back his remark, saying he “spoke in a different context” and “never used such a term for Ukraine,” per Euromaidan Press.
US view: Asked about Macron’s comments and whether the US saw Finlandization as an acceptable option for Ukraine, a State Department spokesperson said this: “President Macron has said that that was not the formulation that he used, and that ending NATO’s open-door policy would actually be a problem, and we agree with that. And as we’ve said previously, we’re committed to the right of sovereign nations to make their own decisions about their security.”
Putin: It’s not clear whether Russia would be on board with a new version of Finlandization. After his meeting with Macron, “Putin mentioned that it was ‘too early to speak about’ some ideas Macron had floated, which could nonetheless create ‘a foundation for our further steps,’” writes Andreas Kluth at Bloomberg. “Was that a reference to a Finlandization of Ukraine? If so, Macron would have breached Western unity and principle—the allies have so far insisted that no deals will be cut without the involvement and assent of smaller nations.”
Context: The term is not new in regard to Ukraine. When Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski were among the bigwigs floating it as a potential model in the region even then, notes Horowitz. However, the idea of forgoing NATO membership and giving the Kremlin sway “goes against what Ukraine has been striving for,” says Anna Wieslander, director for Northern Europe at the Atlantic Council. “It would be a big shift.”

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