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

360. Subject: Conversation With Finnish Foreign Minister Karjalainen.

During course of two and one-half hour sauna with FonMin Ahti Karjalainen, we discussed numerous topics of mutual interest. Only other persons present at sauna were Director FonMin Political Office Hyvarinen and Chief Embassy PolSec Owens. Among topics covered were following:
Soviet Leadership—FonMin said that he had met repeatedly with top Soviet leaders and felt he knew them reasonably well. He considered Kosygin to be relatively reasonable person, but said Brezhnev impressed him as rather inflexible and that there was something “dark” in his nature. He pointed out that as far as he knew, Brezhnev had never visited West, which perhaps accounted to some degree for his rigidity and narrow outlook. Podgorny, he commented, seemed to carry very little weight in Soviet hierarchy. On other hand, he viewed M. Suslov as “extremely important” figure.
Soviet-Finnish relations—When I pointed out view often expressed both in Finland and abroad that Finnish foreign policy dominated by Moscow, Karjalainen emphatically denied this was case. (His denial impressed me as rather forced.) He acknowledged that Finns often “consulted” with Soviets re planned course of action but never asked for approval either before or after taking specific actions. He likened this consultation to what he assumed small neighbor of any super power would probably follow, and (after some groping for analogy) cited Mexico-US relations as parallel case. He asserted Finns often turned Moscow down flatly on specific requests, and listed as example of this Finnish rejection Soviet pressure for recognition of East German regime. He added that GOF had learned that best way to do business with Moscow was to refuse clearly Soviet requests rather than to equivocate and create misleading impression that request might be acceded to later when there was no intention of doing so.
Conference on European Security—I reiterated our position on CES (i.e., need for Soviets to demonstrate constructive approach on specific issues before consideration could be given to holding conference, etc.). FonMin said he understood US position but hoped Amb [Page 238] Enckell2 would be received in Washington to discuss conference. I replied it my understanding that this would be done, but pointed out dangers if Enckell moved from capital to capital disclosing views of one European state to another. Karjalainen assured me this would not be case, and that Enckell would not divulge positions of various European countries to other states. After Enckell had visited number of countries he would probably issue report on progress to date. He said British seemed to be most negative of major NATO nations towards CES.FonMin acknowledged that there seemed to be one insurmountable obstacle to success of CES, and that is Soviet insistence that conference recognize status quo in Europe and Western refusal to do so. I concurred that NATO nations would certainly not agree to ratify present division of Europe and added that Brezhnev Doctrine specifically was unacceptable to US.
US-Finnish Relations—FonMin said he considered bilateral US-Finnish relations excellent, to which I fully agreed. I pointed out that there had been some minor irritations in past, which, however, had been largely cleared up. I mentioned specifically speech by Communist member of Cabinet attacking US Vietnam policy in rally last August. I reiterated statement I had made then, that while members of sovereign govt could criticize whomever they wished, by attacking one side in conflict they throw into question their neutral status. I also rejected contention that Cabinet member could speak as private citizen at public rally. FonMin said he agreed, and implied he considered speech unfortunate. However, he made point, which I accepted as valid, that there has been extremely little criticism of US Vietnam policy in Finland; Hyvarinen added that at meetings of Nordic nations, Finland was generally country least critical of US Vietnam policy. I also mentioned FonMinʼs speech in UNGA in 19683 calling for cessation of US bombing of North Vietnam as example of coming down on one side of dispute between two parties.
Contract for Construction Atomic Power Plant—I cited awarding of contract to Soviet Union to build atomic power plant despite lower Western bids as kind of action which discredits Finnish assertions of neutrality. Somewhat to my surprise, Karjalainen agreed wholeheartedly, and said that key factor in contract award was that there were so many parties in govt and that so many different individuals in govt got into act on this question that it became hopelessly confused.
Comment: I think our exchange of views, which was unusually friendly and frank for generally reserved FonMin, was valuable. Although Karjalainen may not be FonMin in next govt,4 he is considered good possibility for Prime Ministership position. I think result of our conversation was to clarify views of both govts and particularly to emphasize to Finns our close interest in actions and statements which affect US interests. One indication of this was initiative by Karjalainen directing Hyvarinen to seek closer consultation with US in future on matters of mutual interest.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL FIN–US. Secret. Repeated to Bonn, Moscow, Paris, USNATO, Copenhagen, Oslo, and Stockholm.
  2. Ralph Enckell, Finnish permanent representative to the United Nations, 1959–1965; ambassador at large.
  3. For the text of the October 7, 1968, speech, see UN doc. A/PV.1684.
  4. In the March 15–16 elections, the ruling coalition lost a total of 29 seats but was able to form a new coalition government.