Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Finn Taps the West on the Shoulder and Whispers, "Friend, Dial it Back a Bit."

We move ABM systems to their border, they move nuke-capable SRBM to Kaliningrad. We encourage Ukraine, they invade Ukraine. We move small numbers of company sized maneuver forces in to the Baltic Republics, they reactivate and upgrade 3,000 MBT. We encourage the NATO Eastern Flank to increase spending on defense, Russia does the same.

We accuse them of trying to manipulate our elections and funding radical parties in West ... and so on.

This has been an interesting year when it comes to Russia in Europe.

As always when dealing with Russia, it is important to keep a few things in mind.
- She is not of the West. She is Russia.
- She holds grudges.
- She trust no one.
- She has an incredible ability to deal with hardship.
- She is a bit paranoid.
- She is very insecure.
- She is large.
- She has great potential.
- She is weaker than she thinks.
- She is stronger than she appears.
- Sometimes, she just likes to see the world burn.

You also do not need to tell the former Soviet Republics, former Warsaw Pact nations, or those who have been at war with Russia in the last century to respect her, they know all too well.

It is helpful to listen to those who have a record of success of getting along - at a respectful distance - with the Russians while still being independent. Of course, I'm talking about Finland. A survivor of the Cold War through a slightly embarrassing compromise; "Finlandization" was a soft-freedom - but it kept Finland free. She knows her former imperial master and neighbor Russia well, and we should listen to her.

Let's jump to today with a little note of caution from Finland's defense minister, Jussi Niinistö. First of all, know where he comes from. He is from the True Finns Party - one that is hard to place in the Left-Right spectrum in the American sense, and even the European one. It is a populist and nationalist-oriented political party that holds some left-wing economic policies, but some conservative social policies. The more you read about the True Finns, it almost seems like a Trumpist party without a Trump - but I could be wrong as my American lens cannot see their political system with much clarity. It opposes Finland's entry to the EU and NATO - so keep that in mind.

Niinistö is a military historian by trade and holds a position between an American Associate Professor and a Tenured Professor at university in Finland.

Here are some points he made recently that are worth pondering a bit.
"We naturally support detente. And we practice an active policy of stability," Niinisto said in an interview with Finnish MTV3 News. "We'd like to see the military situation calm down in the Baltic Sea, rather than escalate." 

... he said, there were no current threats against Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia.

Niinisto said he hadn't seen "any inclination among the Russian leadership to threaten" the small Nordic country. "In that sense Russia is not a threat to Finland."
I think that behind closed doors, Niinist√∂ would have a few scenarios where that might not be true - but I think the tone he sets is helpful.

If you have a large and dangerous neighbor who is off her meds a bit, is paranoid, claustrophobic, and loves trash talking - perhaps a good approach is to just humor her, talk in soft terms, and as long as she stays on her yard - generally try not to provoke her.

Have the police on speed-dial, a good security system, flood lights in the yard on a motion sensor, a bat by the door, and a gun in your nightstand? I would do that too. Otherwise - maybe being a bit patronizing until she calms down is not that bad of an idea.

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