Helsinki, Finland; December 6, 2016; worth a listening to for an understanding of our role around the world.
Finland celebrated Independence Day on December 6th, but Finnish sovereignty is like an “echo in the brain” says Tero, a husband and father of five kids.
His own father was born during wartime with Russia, and Tero’s biggest concern is that President-elect Donald Trump will allow Putin to “expand” Russia, he explains while driving his cab along the empty Helsinki streets around 1 a.m.
We discuss Putin’s refusal to let refugees into Russia, while pushing Syrians into the rest of Europe. Which makes me wonder aloud if that was the plan. Is Putin working with Assad in Syria to create a sense of global nationalism and destabilization? Russia and Turkey, who have been in opposite camps, re-opened dialogue for a cease fire this past Thursday. Turkey, which has had its own issues with human rights violations–borders Syria and has taken in 2-3 million refugees. Also in a plot twist today, Sputniknews.com—Russia’s version of Breitbart.com—reported that using national currencies in bilateral trade would be “mutually beneficial”.
“The cooperation between our two countries is of vital importance to the entire region. We believe that the use of the lira and ruble in our bilateral trade will add a new dimension to our cooperation and help implement bilateral trade agreements,” Bülent Gedikli [top adviser to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan] told Sputnik Turkey. He added that Ankara also expected to sign a number of foreign policy agreements with Russia and mentioned the longtime global economic pivot to the East. –Sputnik News
Pivoting back to my conversation with Tero, his fears don’t seem so far-fetched.
“From our point of view it’s kind of scary because it’s [Russia] a big country; there is so many people. And if they [Russia], nowadays they want to take Finland they can take it. We couldn’t fight back if nobody defends us from other countries, but I don’t believe in war, so we’ll see,” Tero, age 39, said. The Finnish native was not comfortable sharing his last name due to the small nature of his country, he explained.
It was Lenin who approved Finland’s Declaration of independence on December 6, 1917. The country soon fell into a civil war and gained a new constitution by 1919. In 1939, Russia invaded Finland again, during WWII, and a final peace treaty with Russia was signed in 1947.
Unlike the U.S., celebrations are somber because the wounds are still fresh, as was explained to me by various locals. Prior to being ruled by Russia, the Finnish were under Swedish rule.
It’s not just the Finnish who are voicing concerns about their economic and national sovereignty and safety. I spoke with a Danish student, Christian Lumby, in Copenhagen who took a similar stance on residing in a small country that depends on U.S. leadership; I was most surprised by his knowledge of U.S. and world politics. The engineering student said that he and his peers felt they were more worried about U.S. election results than most Americans their age, not by choice but by necessity.