Finlandization in western Europe


Michael Higgins reviews Britain's ‘Irish Guards'

Finlandization is a term first coined in the 1950s and now used to describe a process by which one powerful country strongly influences or determines the policies of a smaller neighbouring country. From the larger, stronger country's point of view, this is almost always a more convenient, less costly means of dominating its neighbour than by the use of naked force. Under certain circumstances this process is driven by clear but unpublicised threat. On other occasions Finlandization occurs when certain sections of society within the smaller state opt for the perks of association with a more powerful state. Often, the larger country employs a mix of both tactics.

A first step by the dominant nation is often to insist on having its claim to a portion of the smaller state's territory accepted. The smaller state, for example, would remove any articles from its constitution that might challenge the larger state's exercise of authority in the contested region. When convinced that the smaller state has definitively conceded on the territorial claim, the larger imperial power will then move to win the propaganda struggle by demonstrating that old animosities are in the past and that relations between the states are now excellent.  

Exchanging state visits is a nice method often used to demonstrate that differences are not just history but that both sides accept the redefined constitutional arrangement. State visits and especially the centre piece formal banquet provide fine opportunities for the smaller state's broadcasting services  to  provide exhaustive (exhausting?) coverage. Small state's politicians dressed in period costumes and appearing to have finally gained the acceptance and approval of their larger neighbour (often the former imperial master as well) makes for good television at home and is especially welcome when the economy is not performing too well.

Finlandization in practice. Sound familiar?

Tommy McKearney 9 April 2014

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