After the upheavals of Finnish independence in 1917 and a civil war, the United States and Finland enjoyed friendly diplomatic relations. The two countries entered into several agreements regarding trade, debt, extradition and other commercial and cultural ties during the 1920s. During the Great Depression of the 1930’s, Finland was the only nation to continue to pay off debts it owed to the United States from World War I.
Following the 1939 Soviet attack on Finland and subsequent “Winter War,” Finland allied with Germany to obtain supplies and military assistance in continued conflict with the Soviet Union. This alliance led the United States to sever diplomatic relations with Finland in June 1944, though informal relations were reestablished a few months later and formally reinstated within one year. Between World War II and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Finland pursued a strict policy of Cold War neutrality. The United States, aware of Finland’s precarious geographical position, supported Finnish neutrality while maintaining and reinforcing Finnish ties with the West. Modern Flag of Finland
Finland declared its independence from the Russian Empire on December 6, 1917, shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution. The United States recognized Finland on May 7, 1919, in a letter from Secretary of State Robert Lansing to Finnish Foreign Minister Rudolf Holsti. The United States had delayed its decision due to concerns over Finland’s political instability and ties with Germany.
The United States established diplomatic relations with Finland on May 27, 1919, when Acting Secretary of State Frank L. Polk recognized Armas Herman Saastamoinen as provisional Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the de facto Government of Finland as U.S. President Woodrow Wilson was still in Europe for the Paris Peace Conference. Saastamoinen was recognized as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary on August 21, 1919, upon the return of President Wilson.
U.S. Legation in Helsingfors was established on March 19, 1920, when Chargé d’Affaires pro tem Alexander R. Magruder presented his credentials.
The United States severed diplomatic relations with Finland on June 30, 1944, and closed the legation on the same day. A statement by the Department of State noted that this action was taken in response to the Finnish government’s formal admission of a military partnership with Nazi Germany to fight against the Allies of the United States.
After Finland signed an armistice with American allies in September 1944 and expelled German nationals from its territory, the United States established a Special Mission at Helsinki on January 16, 1945. Foreign Service officer Maxwell M. Hamilton was appointed Minister at the Mission. This was not a resumption of formal diplomatic relations.
Diplomatic relations and the American Legation in Helsinki were reestablished on September 1, 1945, with Benjamin M. Hulley as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim.
The U.S. elevated its legation in Helsinki to Embassy status when Jack K. McFall presented his credentials as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary on November 15, 1952.