Beyond the Finnish lakes, the bear’s forest

During the Ukrainian crisis, in the North of Europe a Vladimir Putin statement has not gone unnoticed, when he declared that "the bear does not ask anyone's permission, the bear does not give anyone his forest" maybe because the bear which was mentioned incarnates Russia, a country that throughout its history has often confused its forest and that of Finland and not only by means of the jokes: on Wednesday 1st April the newspaper "Helsingin Sanomat" reported that a Finnish entrepreneur was denied permission to continue his business in the Russian Federation, where he had operated for decades.

Laghi Saimaa, Finlandia - Photo di Aldo Ciummo

Proposals re-emerged in order to make rules on the purchase of land in Finland stricter and doing so prevent a concentration of land into the hands of Russian financial capital, but the Finnish Government urged to distinguish between different purposes of purchase, which in some cases cannot be considered a threat to national security. Certainly much time has passed since the "finlandization", an official neutrality tending to the east out of political realism (while the policy of balance was close to the West in Norwegian international relations, with Sweden and Denmark acting as a center, between Nordic systems). Even between the late eighties and early nineties, Helsinki attracted some criticism for not showing  enthusiastic attitudes towards Baltic neighbors’ aspirations against Soviet and post-Soviet influences.

Deteriorated relations with a major partner ever for the Finnish industrial system would not bring much benefit even today: a year ago a one and a half per cent growth was forecasted for 2015 in the Nordic country, now it seems that it will only come to half a point (such as the Ministry of Finance announced on Thursday, April 2nd ) furthermore, in partial contradiction with its traditional role of advocate of austerity, until 2018 the Finnish state will continue to evaluate exemptions to the constraint of 3 percent between deficit and GDP. Since domestic demand and investment are increasing, the uncertainty created on the international stage by the Russian giant (that showed many signs of agitation in the north) seems to be playing its part in this downsizing of expectations.

But fears about the possible cooling of relations in the East did not prevent Finland to participate in joint military drills that have taken place over its airspace and over the Baltic Sea from March 24th  to April 1st , along with the Swedish and US armies: a number of activities that Russia interprets as signs of a growing Finnish empathy with the tension that runs through the north of Europe, because of the Russian ambitions on the Arctic and on the Baltic Sea and because of air and naval activities with which Moscow has been alarming the Scandinavian neighbors for several months.

In military drills, which has been reported in the Finnish public television YLE, the American F-16 jet took off from bases on the northern coast of Estonia, and the Finns "Hornets" and Swedish "JAS 39 Gripen" from their respective countries. In the previous week, the Finnish Ministers of Defence Carl Haglund and the Swedish one Peter Hultqvist had submitted a report recommending the formation of land, sea and air joint units.

The document recommends the planning of synergies in the use of harbors and military bases in order to maximize the Finnish and Swedish armed forces effectiveness. Even though the report was launched, less than a year ago, as part of a cooperation agreement between the two countries in time of peace and although the two ministers have stressed that what is on the table is not a military alliance, the stormy international context in which the document is presented highlights the security efforts that the states of the area are now intensifying.

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