Carmen Gebhard, What Accounts for Swedish and Finnish Self-Perception? in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 115 - 117

Regionalism and European Integration Revisited

1. Edition 2008, ISBN print: 978-3-8329-4084-3, ISBN online: 978-3-8452-1239-5

Series: Nomos Universitätsschriften - Politik, vol. 164

Bibliographic information
115 orientation, policy formulation and political conduct are strongly influenced by their self-image and their awareness about their geopolitical position.394 II. What Accounts for Swedish and Finnish Self-Perception? Immediately after 1989, Sweden and Finland found themselves in very different geopolitical positions, which decisively influenced the politico-strategic choices the two countries have taken in the years to come. Their individual war experience proved to be one of the major factors determining their individual foreign political self-perception after the breakdown of the bipolar global setting. While Finland just as the Baltic States had been involved in the global block confrontation, Sweden had largely profited from the relative lack of Great Power interest in the European periphery. Because of their fortunate geographical position, the overwhelming majority of Swedes was able to live through the Cold War without noticing that they were involved in a war. Consequently, the [Swedish] population has not yet realised that they came out on the winning side. If noticed at all, this new confusing state of affairs is often deplored and many almost long back to the bad, but predictable, old days of Cold War confrontation. Because of this isolationist mentality the majority of Swedes, contrary to the Finlanders, have tended to ignore the Baltic character and determinants of their common history.395 In the context of block confrontation, Sweden found enough room to pursue its policy of active neutrality, performing as a mediator in various global contexts, such as in Cuba, Northern Vietnam and the German Democratic Republic (GDR).396 Finland, in turn, had been restricted in foreign political terms since any sort of political activism could have provoked a dangerous reaction on the systemic level. Its geopolitical role during the Cold War was determined by its exposition to Soviet influence. Finland is the only small state neighbouring the USSR and not allied to the US that managed to avoid Soviet occupation during the Cold War. However, Finland did not occupy a sheltered geopolitical position such as Sweden, and was under almost constant Soviet pressure. Activism under these conditions would have been extremely dangerous. […] The alternative for Finland, given her [Finland’s] geopolitical situation, would have been closer diplomatic ties to the Soviet Union. This would have opened further channels for Soviet pressure, as well as risking the tenuous relations with the West, which Finland desperately sought to maintain, especially in her economic relations.397 Finland had been more exposed to the logics of the global system confrontation than any other of the Nordic states. However, in certain contexts, Finland actually appeared to try to take over a more active or even proactive role; probably the most important example in this regard is the strong Finnish support for the Commission on Security and 394 See chapter “Sweden and Finland as European Actors and Regional Stakeholders”, p. 125-. 395 ØSTERGÅRD Uffe: The Nordic Countries in the Baltic Region. In: JOENNIEMI Pertti (ed.): Neo- Nationalism or Regionality: The Restructuring of Political Space around the Baltic Rim. Stockholm 1997, pp. 26-53, here p. 27. 396 See FÄLLDIN Thorbjörn: Sveriges roll i en spänningsfylld värld. In: Internationella Studier av Utrikesdepartmentet. Stockholm 1984, pp. 29-35, here p. 29. And JERNECK Magnus: Olof Palme. En internationell propagandist. In: HULDT Bo/MISGELD Klas (eds): Socialdemokratin och den svenska utrikespolitiken. Stockholm 1990, p. 112-139. 397 RIES Tomas: Actvism and Nonalignment. The Case of Finland. In: DAHL Ann-Sofie/HILLMER Norman (eds): Activism and (Non)Alignment. Stockholm 2002, pp. 71-82, here p. 74. 116 Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) not least by hosting the initial conference in Helsinki in 1975. At a later stage of the Cold War, Finland also played an active part in soothing the relationship between the two blocks. Anyway, this Finnish “activism”, if ever it can be labelled as such, always focussed on aspects of realpolitik, meaning issues where Finland had a vital interest, which was mostly to keep the balance between the blocks stable. Generally, Finland tried to maintain as low a foreign political profile as possible, trying to adhere to a truly “neutral” position in all contentious global issues. If anything, Finland was ‘anti-activist’ during the Cold War, at least if we define activism in terms of moral and ecological wrongs and seeking to redress them through public pressure. In contrast to most notions of activism, she thus avoided moral judgements and sought solutions through consensus and compromise rather than condemnation and pressure.398 The Finnish attitude was strongly contrasted by the Swedish foreign policy style during the Cold War, which reached its peak under Prime Minister Olof Palme. Building on the argument of moral greatness and innate normative qualities, he tried to establish Sweden internationally as a moral great power (Swed. moraliska stormakten).399 Presenting itself as a representative not only of the small states and vulnerable actors of primarily the Third World, but also as an aggressive defender of the United Nations and international law, the main available tool for the protection of the small, Sweden embarked under Social Democratic leadership on countless activist expeditions around the globe.400 Palme’s internationalist activism dominated the Swedish international performance in the 1970s and the early 1980s until his assassination in 1986. During the Cold War, the Swedish foreign political profile was characterised by a permanent dichotomy between an active foreign policy attitude and a passive position in security and defence matters. Swedish political activism on the international scene took on such proportions that it became something of a trademark of the country, just as neutrality had been beforehand. Swedish activism followed two parallel tracks. On the one hand, solidarity with the Third World, resulting in an extensive development aid programme, primarily to other small and non-aligned countries and movements with a preference for socialist solutions to development problems. […] On the other hand, there existed a pacifist track promoting world peace, which resulted in a number of political initiatives to encourage global disarmament, arms negotiations, as well as Swedish offers to provide mediatory services in regional conflicts around the world.401 398 Ibd., here p. 75. 399 Dahl introduced the concept of moral great power and supremacy (Swed. moraliska stormakten) in a critical context although the term had previously been used with a positive connotation in order to justify foreign political action during the bipolar confrontation and promote activist internationalism. NILSSON Ann-Sofie: Den moraliska stormakten. En studie av socialdemokratins internationella aktivism. Stockholm 1991, p. 144. And OTTOSSON Sten: Den (o)moraliska neutraliteten. Stockholm 2000, p. 12. See also chapter “Sweden and Finland. Typical Small States?”, p. 121-. 400 DAHL Ann-Sofie: Activist Sweden. The Last Defender of Non-Alignment. In: Id./HILLMER Norman (eds): Activism and (Non)Alignment. Stockholm 2002, pp. 139-150, here p. 142. 401 DAHL Ann-Sofie: To be or not to be Neutral. Swedish Security Strategy on the Post Cold War Era. In: INBAR Efraim/SHEFFER Gabriel (eds): The National Security of Small States in a Changing World. London 1997, pp. 175-196, here p. 184. 117 Today, the legacy of these years of bold Swedish internationalism still seems to be present in Sweden’s own international role perception.402 Equally, Finland appears to be acting in the old context of intra-Nordic inferiority to Sweden, but also to the old great power Denmark. The notion of Finland being the Nordic lillebror (Swed. little brother) and its closest neighbour, Sweden, Finland’s storebror (Swed. big brother) are still common in every-day talk in Northern Europe.403 III. Small State Theory – The Conduct of Small States in Foreign Policy When analysing Swedish and Finnish self-perception, the aspect of small statehood and small state thinking must be treated as a strong and important marker. Sweden and Finland as well as their Nordic fellow states Denmark, Norway and Iceland could, in quantitative terms, all be termed as small states in the conventional sense. However, telling from each country’s foreign political conduct and domestic rhetoric, this factual state ‘size’ appears not to be always neatly complying with their respective selfperception. As outlined above, this was particularly evident with Swedish foreign politics during the Cold War. Despite its clearly inferior position in respect to the two blocks, Sweden chose an activist and to large extents provocative strategy for its overall foreign political conduct. The following chapter will present a few elements of traditional Small State Theory in order to substantiate the discussion on small statehood in foreign policy. This should eventually allow for a more differentiated evaluation of notions like the Swedish ‘perceived greatness’ and the Finnish self-image of being the ‘forever vulnerable and needy second.’404 1. What Makes a State a ‘Small State’? Much literature about small states pays considerable attention to the question of how “small states” could be defined. Theorists have employed different measures to define the smallness of states: next to the geographical size of a state or its population, also the degree of influence in international affairs has been taken as a criterion for analysis.405 However, various attempts of defining state smallness alongside quantitative criteria, 402 For a critical discussion, see OTTOSSON Sten: Svensk självbild under kalla kriget. En studie av stats- och utrikesministrarnas bild av Sverige 1950-1989. Stockholm 2003. And JERNECK Magnus: Olof Palme. En internationell propagandist. In: HULDT Bo/MISGELD Klas (eds.): Socialdemokratin och den svenska utrikespolitiken. Stockholm 1990, pp. 112-139. And GEBHARD Carmen: Europäische Integration und Neutralität. Österreich und Schweden im Vergleich. Vienna 2004, pp. 53-57. 403 See for example, FREDERIKSSON Gunnar: Vet du om att du är stöddig? Aftonbladet, 14 oktober 1996, p. 20. And KLEBERG Olof: Stolta Finland med i gänget. In: Västerbottens Kuriren, 9 maj 1998, p. 2. And ERIKSEN Knut Einar: Norge og Norden. Samarbeid og kollisjon. In: Atlanterhavskomitéen (ed.): NATO 50 år. Norsk sikkerhetspolitikk med NATO gjennom 50 år. Oslo 1999. And BRANDER Richard: Finland och Sverige i EU. Tio år av medlemskap. Helsinki 2004. And PETERSEN Leif: Splittrad familj drar åt olika hall. In: Svenska Dagbladet, 25 november 2006, p. 160. 404 Elements of this characterisation of the two states appear in SUOMINEN Tapani/BJÖRNSSON Anders (eds): Det hotade landet och det skyddade. Sverige och Finland från 1500-talet till våra dagar. Historiska och säkerhetspolitiska betraktelser. Stockholm 2002. 405 See HEY Jeanne A. K.: Introducing Small State Foreign Policy. In: Id. (ed.): Small States in World Politics. Explaining Foreign Policy Behaviour. Boulder 2003, pp. 1-11, here p. 2. See also VITAL David: The Inequality of States. Oxford 1967.

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Seit 1989 ist es im Ostseeraum zu einer explosionsartigen Entstehung einer Vielzahl von regionalen Initiativen und Zusammenschlüssen gekommen. Der Ostseeraum weist bis heute eine europaweit einzigartig hohe Konzentration an kooperativen regionalen Strukturen auf. Diese bilden gemeinsam ein enges Netzwerk von Vereinigungen, die unter dem Überbegriff der "Ostseezusammenarbeit’ interagieren.

Diese Studie analysiert die Hintergründe dieses regionalen Phänomens oder so genannten „Ostsee-Rätsels“ auf Basis eines Vergleichs zwischen den Regionalpolitiken zweier staatlicher Schlüsselakteure, Schweden und Finnland, wobei der europäische Integrationsprozess als übergeordneter Bezugsrahmen für die Untersuchung dient.