Jyri Häkämies is Minister of Defence with a long record in the civil service and public sector travails. As a life-long member of the conservative National Coalition Party of Finland (Kokoomus) he should know better. He recently raised a storm in a teacup. Last week (Sept 9) on his visit to the USA, he raised a few eyebrows by summing up Finland”s three defence worries as being Russia, Russia, Russia.
Cynically, one could say that a politician whose public persona is as vibrant as an uncooked pork chop should not fling sound bites around, especially when in the lair of sound bite flingers, lest his public persona suffer for it. His speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington was nothing more than a marketing exercise (yes – he even got the Nokia name into the speech) until he came to this phrase (at which point the deafening silence turned into ‘feminine’ titters). OK, the invitees surely did want to hear what Finland is doing in the defence sphere but there was no flesh in the meat, as it were, until his sound bite. Anyway, it was not just this speech which has got the Finnish President into a dervish-like snit. Tarja Halonen is nohting if not a limp-wristed concilliatory politician who sometimes knows on what side her bread is buttered. She is annoyed. And about time too. But the matter which is really behind her botheration is the kokoomus chess game. The thing is that the majority of the kokoomus would like to push Finland into the arms of NATO. Tarja Halonen is vexed to desperation because she sees the last bastion of social democracy being wittled down to a mere twig. It costs nothing, economically, to be anti-NATO, nor indeed anti-USA. It is the duty of the last social democrat left standing to hold fast to this principal. Since there are no principals on which on which to make a clear stand … But that is by the by. What Jyri Häkämies did bring to the attention of the invitees in Washington is that Russia is flexing its muscle. Russia is being mischievous, in a not very funny way. Oil money is making the Russians very brash, is what he was saying between the lines. What is clear is that Finns, like all Europeans’ are slightly mistrustful of anything Yankee and certainly all things Ruskie. To put it another way, you can trust a Yankee as far as you can throw a Ruskie. No, I do not think that the kokoomus will have great success in getting Finns to spoon with yankees and share a borscht with the Russians. The laws of physics tell us that it is not possible to square the circle and most certainly not two. Personally, I think what really riled Tarja Halonen was not the titter eliciting sound bite uttered by the Minister at the CSIS. What is behind the raising of the presidnetial pulse was that the Russians were annoyed. Thinking about it once more, it may well have been that Halonen’s snit is not really her own but she is really mouthing Vlad Putin’s concerns. Yes, her annonyance is really about having been put into a position where she has to sit there in her suite and listen to Vladimir’s whine about Jyri. Ungrateful this and that, he probably piped into the hands-free, more than once, and no Karelia; it will never, ever come back into the lap of the Finnish motherland. Oh bother, blinked Ms Halonen.