105. Telegram From the Embassy in Finland to the Department of State1

1227. For S/S and EUR. Subj: Finnish reaction to US diplomatʼs use of “Finlandization” to be raised at Secretaryʼs level on August 9.

Summary. In his initial call on Secretary Rogers tomorrow, August 9, new Finnish Ambassador to Washington, Leo Tuominen, will ask if “Finlandization” concept reflects change in US attitude toward Finland. Foreign Ministry today called in EmbOff to register concern of Government, whose curiosity aroused by use of term by US Ambassador to FRG Hillenbrand in West German radio interview August 6. We believe Ambassador Hillenbrandʼs commentary is apt and no explanation is owed the Finns. End summary.
Finnish Foreign Ministryʼs Chief of Political Section (Tuovinen) called in EmbOff today to register the Governmentʼs “deep concern” about Ambassador to FRG Hillenbrandʼs use of term “Finlandization” in radio interview with West German radio on August 6 and to inquire whether statement by such a high-level diplomat implied or reflected a change in US attitude toward Finland. Tuovinen said Finns had interpreted previous policy statements, including those of President Nixon in 1970, as stressing US understanding of Finnish neutrality. Tuovinen stated that the new Finnish Ambassador to Washington, Leo Tuominen, who will make his first call on Secretary Rogers tomorrow, August 9, will be instructed to make same query of Secretary as one of topics of discussion.
Tuovinen commented that the Finns had become accustomed to hearing the term “Finlandization” (or Finlandisierung in German), which the Finns regard as uncomplimentary, from such German politicians as Franz Josef Strauss, but the fact that it had found currency with such a prominent American diplomat as the former Assistant Secretary for European Affairs is of far greater concern to the Finns.
Ambassador Hillenbrandʼs radio interview has been reported in Finlandʼs largest daily Helsingin Sanomat, and has already elicited editorial comment in one paper, the small leftist Socialist Paivan Sanomat, which wrote: “In fact ‘Finlandizierung’ means independence from the military and economic policy of the USA and the maintenance of good relations with the Soviet Union and other Socialist countries; [Page 258]in other words, giving up the positions of the Cold War. If the word were interpreted in this way, it would be a term of honor. But in Western language it means ‘coming under the influence of the Soviet Union and, before long, becoming its satellite.’ In the mouth of Hillenbrand the term is an attack against the Soviet Union and Finland and the active Finnish foreign policy which is approved by the people. It is no accident that the Ambassador in Bonn uses this word at a time when Finland has just started negotiation on diplomatic relations with the GDR. In our opinion it is high time that our countryʼs foreign policy leaders should quickly and with determination refute the attack by the US Government against our political leaders and the Finnish people.”

Informal English translation of the pertinent Hillenbrand remark, which was in response to interviewerʼs question and reportedly made in German, and relayed to the Foreign Ministry in that language, follows: “Deutschlandfunk: Mr. Ambassador, it is a general opinion—an opinion which also has been adopted by the peoples in the border countries—that a return to the Cold War is out of the question. This is a philosophy, on which matter politicians and career diplomats may wish to have their say. But, must we not reckon with the fact that we in the next phase also are bound to encounter complications. One of the major themes of discussion, on which attention has been focused to a greater or lesser extent, is the zone of reduced preparedness in Central Europe. The term applied to this is the concept of Finlandization. If this were to be brought up at the European Security Conference, it would certainly affect American interests and therewith evidently also German-American relations.

Hillenbrand: Yes, naturally, in life—also in diplomatic life—nothing is ever self-evident or completely certain. One must always take into consideration the fact that new developments may take place, developments that may be unexpected and perhaps not always positive. This is part of the normal expectations of a diplomat. One often speaks, as you said, of the so-called Finlandization of Europe. This signifies an aspiration to achieve a form of neutralization in Europe. Evidently, it is not an objective adopted by US in our policy; and I also assume that it is not a political objective for Western Europe. What we must strengthen is our NATO alliance. In my opinion, the strength of NATO is an unquestionable prerequisite for the future development of an expanded Ostpolitik and for US policy in general directed towards Eastern Europe. This was also emphasized by Chancellor Willy Brandt almost two years ago, when he said that without a strong Western policy a strong Eastern policy could not be thought of. For this reason, I believe it to be better that we do not speak of Finlandization. In the long range, one could naturally see it as a danger. But I cannot believe that it necessarily is an unavoidable development, we shall do everything [Page 259]to prevent this. I mean that to speak of Finlandization of Europe, is to speak of an improbable development.”

Embassy officer informed Tuovinen that Embassy would inform the Department of Ambassador Tuominenʼs intention to bring up the matter with the Secretary and added that, in his knowledge, Hillenbrand statement did not represent a change in US policy toward Finland.
Embassy comment. Considering the nature of the interview in question, and Ambassador Hillenbrandʼs comment that “Finlandization” is better not spoken of, Finnish reaction seems to be disproportionately strong. However, Finns in recent years have tried to ignore the term and its semantic negation of Finlandʼs independence. They are today, if anything, even more sensitive to such commentary since it reflects negatively on their cherished hope to establish international understanding of their neutrality, something they have been notably unsuccessful in achieving in Eastern Europe. Their immediate concern, of course, relates to their hostship of the CSCE preparatory talks.
In my opinion the term Finlandization, applying to a country which is not truly neutral but is in fact in many ways subject to Soviet influence, is eminently correct. We do not use the term locally for obvious reasons.
The Finns are not as careful in their language in speaking of the United States as their thin skin in this instance might suggest. In recent weeks President Kekkonen in an interview in a Stockholm daily said, “The American warfare in Vietnam is so inhumane that we must from the humanitarian point of view express our protest.” Also, Ulf Sundquist, Minister of Education, speaking at Socialist International in Vienna, said, “The position of small countries is not automatically improved by rapprochement in great power relations. The war in Vietnam is raging with the United States continuing her persistent aggression against the Indochinese peoples. It is a shame to democratic socialism if we cannot condemn this war and point out its real cause.”
Finland cannot expect and should not be permitted to embarrass a fine Ambassador, Hillenbrand, let alone presume to bother the Secretary with this matter. It is time these people practice what they piously preach.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 17 FIN–US. Confidential; Immediate. Repeated immediate to Bonn.