Risto Volanen in English

The US, Europe and Russia should cooperate.


In March 18, 2010, I participated as a panelist in Washington Atlantic Council seminar on the U.S. Force Posture in Europe.

The other speakers were: Hank Allen, Andrzej Karkoszka, Klaus Naumann, Boyko Noev.

The panel was chaired by Ian Brzezinski.

Here are my first remarks, with some minor technical corrections.


I reprint this text because it still presents the major dynamic in the Northern Europe. Unfortunately the risks described in 2010 have more or less trigged as an escalation. Therefore, there is an urgency get them under control.  



“MR. VOLANEN:  I start from the Northern European or High North perspective.


President Dwight Eisenhower was mentioned here, that he would be in trouble if he knew that still American forces are in Europe. Well, the post WW II configuration for Northern Europe was very intelligent. So it guaranteed very stable environment and next to Soviet Union, one of the superpowers, next to its major city Leningrad and its major strategic asset of Murmansk, we were able to develop five modern Nordic welfare states, in very peaceful environments. So Dwight Eisenhower must be thanked very much.


But we are not now discussing about president Eisenhower. We are discussing about president Clinton because after the Cold War, it was President Clinton who redesigned the Northern European system which also is very stable as it stands now. It was in Helsinki in 1997 that President Clinton and President Yeltsin met each other and the agreement was found that the Baltic countries could join NATO and it was President Clinton who was the advocate of all these countries becoming NATO members, according to Asmus and some other sources.


So we have now relatively stable situation and a good configuration: Baltic countries members of European Union and NATO, Sweden and Finland are nonaligned countries, members of European Union, Finland still having very well-organized and relatively strong military structure - we never took our peace dividends. We still invest in general conscription army and it’s one part – constructive part of this whole setup.


So to discuss now seriously that the US should leave Europe in the sense that also forgetting all the commitments to the Baltic countries would be very alarming message from any discussion. So from our closest Nordic point of view, we highly respect the constructive role of NATO, U.S. commitment to Northern Europe. And from our point of view, this is also for Russia, a very stable solution.


So we should be all happy about that and not speculate about changing something of the fundamentals. One part of the Finnish policy is that we have excellent relations to Russia also. So we have had 200 years of relation of some kind of reset, reassurance combination, which has worked well.


The next point about High North is the Arctic. We haven’t mentioned it yet. Twenty years ago, I was with my friends in New York and we went to taxi. And we talked Finnish and taxi driver asked, where do you come from? We said, from Finland. And then he was silent. We asked, do you know where Finland is? He said, oh yes, of course, I know. You go to Soviet Union and you turn left.


But now with the ice melting on the – in the north, the whole just logistic system will change in 20, 30 years and the whole natural resource situation will change. So in a way, from the US perspective you must say now, if you go to Finland, so you go to North and you then turn right. We must combine now these new elements and Northern Europe is, in a way, not backyard but front yard to the United States and Russia. So the whole setup is changing in this sense.


Next point. Normally answers depend on what you ask. And if you ask, what is the most economic way to position your forces in the present world – having Afghanistan, having this and that and that – so for Europe the answer may be rational: Leave it; let’s forget it. But this is not the question.


The question is, how do we together manage this century – century of being obviously just in the beginning of major turmoils. We are less than 1 billion Americans, Europeans. There are 6 billion people together in the world – quite soon, 8 billion. We are 10 percent of the world population. We have had 200 years of this modernisation –  revolutions, world wars, many other turmoils. How can we think that the other civilisations would just make smoothly the development towards modernity? And then we have the whole climate change.


So the question is, how do we manage, how do we work together for this century? And here there are many instruments already available. The US telling that, you Europeans, you take care of your own business – would be a divorce in the face of something in which we need fundamental cooperation in the future.


Second point, Russia. If we are 10 percent of world population in 20 years, Russia is now 140 million people. Sooner or later Russians will recognize that they need friends. And sooner or later, reset policy will work. So this is the Finnish experience that you can manage, you can be firm and cooperative in the same time.


So sooner or later, there will be a partnership between Russia, Europe and the United States given the fundamentals of the challenges of this century. So this is the other aspect: We must integrate the reset policies and reassurance policies. If they are dealt separately, then it wouldn’t work.


And here we come to the next point and it is the situation why we need now, or why do you now talk about reassurance of some of the partners in Europe? Obviously, because of what happened after the Munich conference of 2007. I was there. I saw the shock of everybody when President Putin made the speech.


The Russians have felt that they have gone backwards and now it’s time to push back. And now there is a kind of push and push on the both sides. And we must manage this that this push wouldn’t develop a kind of virtual new dynamics of copying or imitating each other.


And here we come to the situation that the experience of Georgia and also the Estonia means that local situation matters. So you can’t just say that over there, we will go there if need be. Local situation matters and also numbers matter. How do we tailor such a policy that we reassure in the same time and also reset in the same time - and have a balanced process towards the questions needs that we need to answer together in this century.


And I remind also what Dr. Kissinger once said, that whatever the color of the century or the ideology, the best interest of the United States is that you take care that if some alliances take place on the Eurasian continent, United States will be there. If you just say that, you’ll take care of your own business, you’ll never know where you find yourself – we find ourselves in 50 years.


So conclusion, the Eurasian tectonic plates, they are now calm. But storms may come or, like they say, weather may change. But the other plates – tectonic plates in the world will be trembling and we must work together, all of us the US, Europe and Russia to manage this tremblance, which may come and unfortunately obviously will come. Thank you very much.