Cablegate: Finland: Nato Tour Proposal

DE RUEHHE #0462/01 2831327
R 091327Z OCT 08



E. O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Embassy Helsinki proposes two NATO
Tours for FY09, designed to promote greater
understanding of the Alliance in the wake of the
conflict in Georgia. The GOF's security policy
emphasizes the importance of multilateral cooperation,
including with the US, NATO and in particular the EU.
Though the GOF is an active participant in the
Partnership for Peace, public opinion remains largely
against NATO membership and the GOF's current policy is
to maintain the "option" of NATO membership. Following
the conflict in Georgia public uncertainty about NATO
membership increased, and public debate about possibly
renewed "spheres of influence" might cause some to see
NATO in an old light as a bulwark against Russian
aggression. NATO Tours therefore become important
tools to help policy makers dispel old attitudes,
explain NATO's core objectives and principles and
emphasize its multilateral cooperation, including in
international crisis management. END SUMMARY.

Finland moves towards Euro-Atlantic institutions
--------------------------------------------- ---

2. (SBU) Since the collapse of the Soviet Union,
Finland has moved steadily towards Euro-Atlantic
institutions while carefully managing its relationship
with its Russian neighbor. The Government of Finland
(GOF) security policy recognizes that global problems,
development crises and regional conflicts have become
increasingly significant and responding to these
threats requires increasing bilateral and multilateral
cooperation. "International Crisis Management" is the
popular overarching concept for multilateral
cooperation. Under GOF security policy the role of the
U.S., NATO and the development of the transatlantic
relationship are of "key importance." However, what is
most important for the GOF is the "capability and
influence of the European Union."

NATO Uncertainty Grows for a Partner in Russia's shadow
--------------------------------------------- -

3. (SBU) Following this security policy, Finland
participates actively in the Partnership for Peace.
However, a long history in the shadow of Russia means
cooperation with NATO is fraught with difficulty. Many
Finns retain a vision of NATO as a bulwark against the
Soviet Union - and now Russia - and not more broadly as
an alliance of collective defense and common values. A
majority of the public remains opposed to NATO
membership. Following the conflict in Georgia - with
visions of Russia reasserting "spheres of influence"
and the EU and U.S. stating that there will be no
"business as usual" as long as Russia maintains its
current course - uncertainty about NATO has increased.
(NOTE: Also following the conflict, the number of
people viewing Russia as a threat to Finland's security
also has grown, from 20 to 26 percent. END NOTE.)

Goal: Increase understanding of and decrease
uncertainty about NATO

4. (SBU) The recent conflict in Georgia generated
public debate about Finland's security policy, in
particular about the role of the EU in regional
security and the GOF's policy towards NATO membership.
The first parliamentary debate on security after the
conflict was filled with praise for the prominent role
played by the EU presidency and the OSCE Chairman-in-
Office in the Georgia crisis. References to NATO
largely surrounded reaffirmations of the GOF's current
policy of maintaining the "option" of NATO membership.
The GOF's position, poised carefully between those in
favor and those against membership, means that few in
the Cabinet speak forcefully in favor of NATO as
uncertainty grows about Finland's relationship with the
Alliance (Foreign Minister Stubb being a notable

5. (SBU) In Finland public opinion often follows
government policy, as in the mid-1990s when public
opinion regarding EU membership only turned in favor
after the GOF launched a campaign supporting
accession. Any change in public opinion about NATO
would necessarily involve the active participation of
policy-makers. NATO Tours therefore become an
important tool to help policy makers dispel old

HELSINKI 00000462 002 OF 002

attitudes, explain NATO's strategic concept and
emphasize its multilateral cooperation, in particular
with the EU.

Proposal 1: NATO's Strategic Concept

6. (SBU) As NATO considers a revision of its Strategic
Concept next year, a tour that has this Concept as its
umbrella theme will be able emphasize important points.
One would be to examine NATO's core principles and
objectives, as a way to dispel outdated attitudes about
the Alliance. Another would be to stress NATO's role
in international crisis management, e.g., peacekeeping
operations and responding to humanitarian emergencies.
And yet another would acknowledge the centrality of the
EU in GOF security policy - i.e., a way to allay
concerns about NATO and change opinion would be to
highlight the degree of overlap and cooperation between
NATO and the EU. Foreign Minister Stubb himself
alluded to the benefits of a trip to Brussels. In a
speech to Finnish Ambassadors last August, Stubb said
that a trip to Brussels cured him of any "NATO phobia,"
pointing to the same debates occurring in the EU and
the heavy overlap of participants. (COMMENT: Already an
avowed Atlanticist, Stubb was making a rhetorical
flourish, but made an important point nevertheless. END

Proposal 2: NATO and International Crisis Management
--------------------------------------------- --

7. (SBU) This tour has a considerably narrower focus.
In pursuing its security policy, and despite its
relatively small population, Finland has become a
significant provider of security, in particular by
participating in peacekeeping operations alongside the
U.S. in Kosovo and Afghanistan. The Finnish people are
rightly proud of those contributions to regional and
global security. A program that explains NATO's
current role in promoting stability by focusing on
peacekeeping operations could help quell uncertainty
about the Alliance, and perhaps turn ingrained and
outdated attitudes about NATO. (NOTE: We propose either
an exclusively Brussels-based Tour for this program, or
one that incorporates a visit to Kosovo or Afghanistan,
as an "on the ground" element would have immense
benefits to participants. END NOTE.)

Timing and participation

8. (SBU) Post proposes the tours take place late in the
second quarter of FY09 or early in the third, i.e.,
around the Summit in Strasbourg. This would engage the
participants in briefings and discussion either as a
preview or review of the Summit. For both programs we
envision approximately 8-9 parliamentarians, with 3-4
drawn from key ministries like Foreign Affairs, Defense
or Finance (the latter targeting the subject of funding
peacekeeping operations). We have reached out to
parliamentary committees and Ministries, and have
received strong expressions of interest and names of
potential participants.

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