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Cablegate: Finland Scene-Setter for Codel Specter, Aug. 19-20

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EUR/NB FOR GARRY; H FOR RICH -- PLEASE PASS TO CODEL SPECTER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV SNAR SOCI EUN FI
SUBJECT: FINLAND SCENE-SETTER FOR CODEL SPECTER, AUG. 19-20

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The visit of Senators Arlen Specter and
John Thune to Finland offers the United States important
opportunities: (1) to encourage Finland to take a greater
role in NATO-led crisis management and reconstruction
operations, especially in Afganistan; (2) to urge Finland
to join other EU member states in ratifying extradition and
mutual legal assistance (MLAT) agreements; and (3) to
welcome and reinforce the Finnish goal -- shared by the
Cabinet and the Parliamentary leadership -- of improving
relations with Washington. The visit also offers a unique
Finland-Pennsylvania public diplomacy opportunity. END
SUMMARY.

FINLAND: AN OVERVIEW
--------------------
2. (SBU) With a population of 5.2 million, Finland is an
archetypal Nordic welfare state. High taxes pay for a
robust "cradle to grave" system of services and benefits of
which the Finns are very proud. A strong culture of
"consensus politics" informs the political system and
fosters an egalitarian ethos that dominates Finnish
society. Finnish politicians take great interest in US
politics and our political culture, and they respect our
democracy and our achievements. However, the intense and
sometimes acrimonious competition that characterizes the US
two-party system is somewhat alien to Finns, whose multi-
party system forces the eight parties in Parliament to form
new coalitions after every election and to seek consensus
and compromise on nearly every key legislative issue.

3. (U) The Second World War is the seminal event in Finnish
history and remains the second key reason for Finland's
consensus style of politics and governance. After the USSR
invaded Finland in 1939, the Finns went to war with the
Germans as allies. Although Finland prevented Soviet
occupation, it came at the cost of tens of thousands of
lives lost and significant territorial concessions at the
end of the war. This existential crisis still plays a
major role in Finnish political, social, and cultural
thought, and led to two generation's of skepticism about
collective security arrangements such as NATO and great
power politics. Above all, maintaining a modus vivendi
with Russia -- the only realistic potential threat to
Finland's existence -- is the priority of every Finnish
government. During the Cold War, Finland occupied a
"betwixt and between" place in Europe. Its special
position between east and west made it useful to both
Washington and Moscow, and many east-west meetings and
summits were held in Helsinki, including the first rounds
of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT).

THE CURRENT POLITICAL SITUATION
-------------------------------
4. (SBU) Finland held a general Parliamentary election in
March 2007. The opposition Conservative Party (CONS) made
large gains and joined the Center Party (CEN) in forming a
center-right government. The long dominant Social
Democratic Party (SDP) fared poorly and found itself in
opposition for only the second time in 40 years. The
sitting Prime Minister, Matti Vanhanen (CEN), remained in
place, but Conservatives took over influential posts such
as foreign minister, finance minister, defense minister,
and speaker of parliament. The success of the center-right
parties is largely attributed to fiscal policy, and to a
desire for at least modest tax relief, especially by small
business owners. There was also some feeling that the
left-wing Social Democrats were sidelining Finland in EU
and international affairs by clinging to an outmoded brand
of non-alignment. The new government has many fresh faces
and a fresh approach, particularly as concerns trans-
Atlantic dialogue and bilateral relations with the US,
which it is actively seeking to revitalize. However, there
is broad consensus among all Finnish parties on the bedrock
issues of foreign and domestic policy. Indeed, the
elections do not signify a "break" with the past: Finland
will remain a robust welfare state; egalitarianism remains
an important social value; and, in international relations,
opposition to "unilateral" military action coupled with

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support for multilateral efforts (normally under UN
auspices) will remain paramount.

US-FINNISH RELATIONS: PURSUING CONCRETE GOALS
---------------------------------------------
5. (SBU) Since coming to office in mid-April, Finland's new
government has said literally all the right things
concerning our bilateral relationship. The Cabinet and
Parliament's leadership have stated clearly that they want
to build a warm relationship with Washington. Foreign
Minister Ilkka Kanerva, who met with Secretary Rice June 11
in Washington, is genuinely determined to undo damage done
to the bilateral relationship by his predecessor, a left-
wing Social Democrat who was often gratuitously critical of
the US. Kanerva and other Finnish leaders are eager to put
the tone and substance of the bilateral relationship back
on track.

HOW CODEL SPECTER CAN HELP US MOVE THE US AGENDA FORWARD
--------------------------------------------- -----------
6. (SBU) URGING A GREATER ROLE IN AFGHANISTAN: The most
important single issue CODEL Specter can raise to support
the Embassy's mission in Finland is the NATO/ISAF mission
in Afghanistan. The GOF currently has 104 peacekeepers on
the ground at Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in
Meymaneh and Mazar-al-Sharif, along with a small but highly
effective civilian team that supports the PRTs with
appropriate, targeted reconstruction assistance.
Afghanistan is also at the top of Finland's overall list
for reconstruction aid, with $12 million in annual funding
secured for at least the next six years. (NOTE: Northern
Afghanistan has not been the site of heavy fighting, and
the Finns have been able to contribute to promoting
stability and recovery. However, Finland did lose one
peacekeeper to a roadside bomb in the spring. END NOTE.)

7. (SBU) Our challenge now is finding ways to help the new
government do more in Afghanistan. At the time of your
visit, the government will be actively engaged in compiling
a major report examining all aspects of the security
situation in Afghanistan and Finland's role there. Details
have not been made public, but the Embassy understands that
the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs, who have
chief responsibility for the report's recommendations, will
recommend increasing Finnish troop contributions to
NATO/ISAF, with a long view toward Finland's assuming
leadership of a PRT in 2008 or 2009. The CODEL's
statements of support to Prime Minister Vanhanen, Speaker
of Parliament Niinisto and other interlocutors will re-
emphasize and advance the efforts the Embassy has made to
urge a greater Finnish role in this crucial theatre of US
operations.

8. (SBU) NATO COOPERATION: While many in the Conservative
Party favor Finland's joining NATO, most of their Center
Party coalition partners -- and President Halonen (SDP) --
strongly oppose membership. Nevertheless, the new GOF's
platform clearly calls for enhancing Finland's cooperation
with the Alliance. In addition to their participation in the
NATO/ISAF Afghanistan operations and in NATO/KFOR in
Kosovo, the Finns are now sending positive signals
regarding possible Finnish participation in the NATO
Response Force (NRF). However, the NRF is the subject of
very intense debate in Finland. From our point of view, it
would be helpful for the CODEL to welcome and encourage the
Finns to announce a move toward joining the NRF -- possibly
as early as this November at NATO's Force Generation
Conference. It will be especially important for the CODEL
to offer such encouragement to Prime Minister Vanhanen, who
appears to favor Finland's joining the NRF but faces great
skepticism within his own Center Party.

9. (SBU) BILATERAL LEGAL TREATIES: In late 2004, the US and
Finland signed bilateral Extradition and Mutual Legal
Assistance (MLAT) agreements that brought these instruments
into conformity with the US-EU Extradition and MLAT
agreements. The Embassy has been urging Finland's
Parliament to ratify both agreements, and key committee

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members tell us they intend to do so as early as this fall.
We also understand the US Senate Foreign Relations
Committee may begin the ratification process as well. A
word of encouragement from the CODEL to Speaker of
Parliament Sauli Niinisto, to Justice Minister Tuija Brax,
and to Parliamentary committee chairs will help move this
process forward to the benefit of both our countries.

PUBLIC DIPLOMACY: THE MORTON STORY
----------------------------------
10. (U) Finally, the CODEL's visit offers an opportunity to
discuss a unique bit of shared history between the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Republic of Finland --
i.e., of John Morton. Morton was born in 1724 in the "New
Sweden" colony (originally Chester County, now Delaware
County) of Pennsylvania. Morton was a descendant of Matti
Marttinen, a Finn from Rautalampi, Finland. He was a
farmer and surveyor, and active in politics, rising to
become Speaker of the Pennsylvania House, and a delegate to
the Second Continental Congress. At that Congress, he cast
the decisive tie-breaking vote in the Pennsylvania
delegation, tipping the balance in support of the
Declaration of Independence. Raising awareness of John
Morton's story and the direct impact this fourth-generation
Finn had on the history and independence of the United
States has been among Ambassador Ware's top priorities
since her arrival in Finland in early 2006.
WARE

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