Just a day after polls showed that Finland’s public, resigned to but unenthusiastic about NATO membership, overwhelmingly rejected any concessions to Turkey as the price of joining, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö announced an agreement making exactly those concessions. Finland and Sweden have lifted their arms embargo against Turkey and agreed to expand their cooperation against groups the government of Turkey claims as terrorist organizations.
While Finnish and Swedish NATO membership still needs to be ratified by all current NATO members’ governments and Turkey may still demand further concessions, it seems likely the two countries will join NATO by the end of 2022.
Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we warned that Finnish capitalism would use the war to push the country into NATO membership after 70 years of neutrality. Now, Finland and Sweden will be full partners in NATO’s murderous imperialist adventures around the world. Moreover, membership will erode much of Finland’s independence and economic freedom.
Over a period of years, Finland has built a reputation as a refuge for those fleeing countries in crisis, whether Pinochet’s brutal Chilean dictatorship or the chaos of Somalia. While treatment of refugees in the country is far from ideal, a vibrant Kurdish community in exile has sprung up in Finland. Banners of the YPG and YPJ, organizations regarded by many Kurds as being engaged in a fight for Kurdish national liberation and against ISIS, are frequently seen at demonstrations.
Kurdish and Turkish migrants to Finland will now live in additional fear as only the assurances of the government — not even a piece of paper — protects them from extradition trials. Turkey is pressing some 33 extradition claims against Finland and Sweden. It is furthermore well known that the government of Turkey uses bogus claims of “terrorism” to settle scores with political opponents.
It is difficult to draw a moral case distinguishing Turkey, one of the most important members of NATO, from Russia. Both are democratic in name only, having transformed into personal dictatorships under corrupt presidents. Both are currently engaged in aggressive wars against smaller neighbors.
But politics is driven not by moral considerations but by the interests of classes, and NATO membership brings much for Finland’s rich elite to like. For example, while NATO is not usually thought of as an economic organization, its charter requires members to “progress toward a market economy,” i.e. to privatize, privatize, and privatize more. In addition, NATO sets a goal for all member states to spend 2% of their GDP on the military. In the cases of Finland and Sweden, this means increases of 33% and 62% respectively — enormous expenditures, almost all of which would go not to domestic industry but rather be spent on shiny war toys from US and Western European defense companies.
The records of Finland’s big political parties make it clear that they will bow to pressure to increase military spending, and that they will pay for it through further attacks on the public sector and the welfare state.
Will Finish people benefit?
Would working people see any economic benefit? Quite the opposite. As Olli Rehn, the chief of Finland’s central bank, notes, the ongoing embargo against Russia is already damaging the economy of the already-impoverished provinces along Finland’s Russian border.
Yet again the Finnish government is abandoning its own workers, this time in favor of war hawks in London and Washington.
NATO is an organization for war and imperialism. Finland should leave as soon as possible. Peace and security do not come with interlocking defense alliances — these systems only increase the scale of devastation when war does come. In the event of a war, NATO’s big countries will readily sacrifice Finland to save themselves.
The only route to peace and security is the international solidarity of the working class: mass refusal to fight the wars of the rich.