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Has Finnish Security Policy Lost Its Way?

Finnish political leaders have come under fire for delaying a productive debate on the future of the nation's security policy. Now based on military non-alignment, security policy options are not being defined in a way that the public or even politicians themselves fully understand.

Finland's security and defence policy debate is plagued by vagueness. It teems with ambiguous catchphrases such as "security deficit", "security guarantee", "independent defence" and the like.

Tapani Vaahtoranta, Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, (FIIA) describes the debate as shadow-boxing.

"We are talking a lot, but not saying enough," he told YLE News. "Since we clearly avoid discussing certain issues openly, it seems to me we're not making too much progress."

The FIIA is an independent think-tank established in 1961, which receives some state funding.

Critics of Finland's security policy say it lacks direction. One prominent politician says that many lawmakers just prefer to avoid security policy.

"When they discuss it, it's only the traditional regional security issues and regional defence issues that are actually discussed, even in some sense. I would say international issues are not tackled at all," says Suvi-Anne Siimes, chair of the opposition Left Alliance, member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Finnish observer to NATO's Parliamentary Assembly.

NATO: A Four-Letter Word? Finland had sought to bolster its position through the EU constitution's clause on mutual security guarantees. But the constitution has been put on ice for probably years to come. A key part of the debate is whether Finland should join NATO. Finland has actively pursued cooperation with the alliance. Close to three out of four Finnish peacekeepers currently serve under NATO-led peacekeeping operations. A recent YLE survey shows that the public have faith in their foreign policy leaders' judgement but joining NATO is not a popular option. Analysts do not expect possible NATO membership to feature prominently in the presidential campaign. With the majority of voters opposed to joining the alliance, few candidates dare mention the four-letter word. Russian Relations Still Loom Large Finns have always been mindful of the long border with Russia. Vaahtoranta says the military security of Finland is to a large extent a question of Russia and whether Russia could pose a threat. "It's still difficult to discuss the potential Russian threat openly in Finland because of our historical experience. We learned to talk about the Soviet Union in a certain way, and that still has an impact on our discussion," says Vaahtoranta. YLE News Finnish Institute of International Affairs

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