95. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • Your Meeting with Ambassador Peterson

The Ambassador has been in Washington since last week for a series of briefings, and plans to return to Hastings, Nebraska, on Saturday; he will embark for Finland on June 24.2

Background

Finland does not try to play a major role in international affairs, mainly because of its preoccupation with ensuring stable relations with the USSR, which retains certain military intervention rights under a 1948 treaty.3 Helsinkiʼs main objective is to promote international acceptance of its role as a neutral. Nevertheless, from time to time the Finns have taken initiatives in European affairs, generally to support Soviet proposals. The recent Finnish proposals (May 6) to host a European Security Conference is an example of an attempt to show support for the USSR but to cast Finnish support in a neutral mode.

Because of its dependence on trade the Finns are fairly active in Nordic affairs. They have joined the OECD, and in recent years have been more active in the UN. Finland is currently a member of the Security Council. It has been forced to remain outside most European organizations, and one of its important problems is how to protect its exports if other members of the European Free Trade Area eventually join the Common Market.

Another aspect of Finnish efforts to ward off potential Soviet pressures was the re-entry of the Finnish Communists into the governing [Page 234]coalition. The Social Democrats had been anathema to the USSR but polled a majority in 1966, and in order to form a government acceptable to the USSR invited the Communists into the coalition. The Communists have played no major role however; in the last few months, the Party split at its Congress, with a moderate faction taking power, provoking a walk-out of the conservative faction. This dispute is still unresolved, but Moscow has advised the conservatives to patch up the dispute.

The main force in Finnish politics remains the 69 year old President Urho Kekkonen who is serving his third six year term. He has proved an adroit manipulator, managing to satisfy the Soviets without compromising Finnish independence. He frequently meets with the Soviet leaders, and apparently has their confidence.

Talking Points

Should you discuss substance with the Ambassador, you may wish to mention the following:

  • —you are interested in the latest Finnish initiative in offering to host a European Security Conference;
  • —you assume that the Finns stepped out in front on this issue to keep from being pressured into a more pro-Soviet proposal;
  • —thus, we want to be careful not to rebuff the Finns (the Finns have told us privately they expect no early movement on their proposal);
  • —our approach, however, was worked out at the recent NATO meeting to the effect that we should explore concrete issues before moving into a large conference;
  • NATO is currently consulting on European security and examining specific issues that might be worth discussing with the USSR;
  • —meanwhile, we have strong doubts that a conference of thirty nations would be of any value.

In view of the close contacts between Finland and the USSR, you may also wish to review with the Ambassador the status of SALT discussions and the NPT ratification.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 673, Country Files—Europe, Finland, Vol. I. Confidential. Sent for information. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. Frederick V.E. Peterson was appointed Ambassador to Finland on May 1. He presented his credentials on July 14. No record of the Presidentʼs conversation with Peterson has been found. Petersonʼs state of residency was Nebraska.
  3. For text of the 1948 Treaty of Friendship and Mutual Assistance, see 48 UNTS 149.