Monday, October 13, 2008

Old Boys' Club Challenged

Finland-Russia Border
Originally uploaded by shesewslovely
Finnish politics just does not stop amusing me. Senior foreign policy experts including some former foreign ministers are currently criticising the current minister Alexander Stubb for too much openness. The situation is so bloody Finnish that it gives me a headache.

The professors and retired politicians are annoyed that Stubb is opening up the diplomatic circle by allowing the daily Helsingin Sanomat to publish assesments of Finnish ambassadors on the status of world politics. Stubb asked these reports following the Georgian conflict and then decided to allow the main daily to publish some of them anonymously.

I read the article based on the reports. There is nothing shocking. The diplomats are divided between more skeptic and more optimistic ones when it comes to Russian relations with the European Union. Some express doubts on the future of the United Nations as a conflict mediator. Some use a bit livelier language such as:
"Finland needs to decrease its dependency on Russian energy. This should be done gradually and quietly, not in a demonstrating manner by fearmongering on the Russian threat. But it needs to be done. The US Marines have a saying:''If you grab them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow'. i presume the Russian know the proverb too."

So let's get this straight. The Minister paid by us asked civil servants paid by us to assess global politics and then the minister decided to share these reports with us without sharing the names of the ambassadors. Former foreign minister Paasio wonders whether this leads to people thinking twice before telling things to Finnish diplomats. Some of the other commentators have been wondering what it does to our international reputation when diplomats drift away from the country's policy. Come on. Anonymous and differing reports from different corners of the world lead at least in my thinking
to greater respect towards the men and women in our diplomatic service. What is better service to the people than allowing us to understand what are the cross currents guiding our foreign policy? I cannot help thinking that it works for some people's benefit to keep up the image that foreign policy is super secretive and not meant for the Joe on the street to understand.

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