Northern Europe

Halonen "not invited" to Oslo

The Finnish daily Ilta-Sanomat reports that Finland’s President Tarja Halonen did not receive an invitation from ex-President Martti Ahtisaari to celebrate his award of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on December 10.  President Halonen’s press secretary is quoted as saying that if the president had received an invitation, she would probably have attended the ceremony.

Going too far

The present dispute between the UK and Iceland is turning into a melodrama in which some unwise statements and actions are being made on several sides. But while it’s easy to crack witticisms about a “New Cod War”, the implications of what is currently being said, done and discovered in connection with this falling-out are drastic enough.  

Not that all of the statements are unwise. At a  press conference in Reykjavík today, Iceland’s prime minister Haarde made the perfectly reasonable remark  that “Gordon Brown, Britain’s prime minister, went much too far in his comments about Iceland yesterday.”

Agreed: it’s going too far when the government of one country more or less accuses the friendly government of another of economic terrorism.

But it’s also going too far when the local governments of one country – even if it was due to their own negligence – are to all intents and purposes held to ransom by the failing economic system of another. And it’s definitely going too far when a country that’s a member of NATO announces that it intends to make an extraordinary financial arrangement with Russia that could, if certain conditions were met, conceivably overturn the whole of the strategic balance in Europe and the Western Atlantic.

It’s probably going too far even to publicize the dispute at all, as the headlines continue to do.

SCB discussions

A couple of recent discussions on soc.culture.baltics connected with the recent controversies surrounding Estonian-Finnish relations can be found here and here. Although I don’t post much to the newsgroup these days, I’ve contributed a few items during the past few weeks. A leading voice in several of the debates is that of Eugene Holman,a lecturer at the University of Helsinki, but there are many other posters with equally interesting points of view.

Deadly parallels

In Helsingin Sanomat, Merituuli Ahola considers the marked similarity between 22-year old Matti Juhani Saari, the gunman who killed ten people at the Kauhajoki vocational college in western Finland today, and the 18-year old gunman Pekka-Eric Auvinen, who in November last year killed six students at his school in Jokela, 50 km. north of the Finnish capital Helsinki. The points of similarity extend to details like the calibre of the automatic pistols used and the physical appearance of the two, including clothing and hairstyle.

Update (September 24): Finnish news reports say that Saari and Auvinen may have known each other.

Carl Bildt in the FT

The Financial Times has published an interview with Sweden’s foreign minister, Carl Bildt. As the foreign minister notes in his blog, “interest in what Sweden has to say about the European situation just now seems to be relatively strong.” Excerpt:

Carl Bildt told the FT: “They are opening up a Pandora’s box of questions that will be extremely difficult to answer. If you are interested in the stability of the Caucasus – and Russia is more interested in that than anyone else – you should be very careful with borders. . . They have fought two wars in Chechnya.”

Mr Bildt said Russia had sent “shockwaves of fear” throughout the region, but he argued it was likely to be the biggest long-term loser by choosing international confrontation over economic “modernisation”…

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“South Ossetian independence is a joke. We are talking about a smugglers’ paradise of 60,000 people financed by the Russian security services. No one can seriously consider that as an independent state,” he said. 

See also: Bildt: Russia has chosen confrontation

Moscow makes another nuclear threat

Having blithely threatened Poland with nuclear attack, the Russian leadership has apparently decided to follow this up with another such threat: the Sunday Times quotes a “senior military source in Moscow” as saying that “nuclear warheads could be supplied to submarines, cruisers and fighter bombers of the Baltic fleet based in Kaliningrad”. This “press leak” is clearly intended for Western consumption, and should probably be treated with a modest dose of skepticism – given the current stance of the Russian government, the content of the statement is of less significance than its timing and form: it should – for the moment, at least – be read as one more effort by Moscow to show its contempt for world opinion.