Naomi Klein’s influential work – ‘The Shock Doctrine’ reveals how power elites under the pretence of crisis use the threat of impending or present doom and fear to introduce policies that satiate the needs of vested interests in society. She gives examples of paradigmatic shifts in policy in Chile, Russia, Britain and other states to show how policies that under ‘normal’ conditions would be resisted, but because a population has been subject to shock it is willing to or is amenable to further manipulation. This is happening in Finland concerning NATO membership.
Finnish Power Elites. I have noticed how Finnish students like to apply a class-based analysis to other societies but are reticent to use the same framework for evaluating Finland. But perhaps the power elites are not as blatant as in other societies. Research by Niklas Jensen-Eriksen identifies how power structures behind closed doors allowed for the development of cartelisation in the Finnish forest industry. The invisible hand of the Finnish elites is not revealed in gratuitous displays of material wealth.
There is incredible deference to the ‘expert class’ in Finnish society. This has been compounded historically by what Lämsä highlights as the Finnish style of management by perkele. Richard Lewis, a leading consultant who has researched Finnish management styles notes how Finnish managers like Finnish army officers lead from the front. As a result, you then have a compliant population that even during relatively stable times will defer to those who have authority. When it comes to times of crisis they become even more malleable.
Groupthink. This can lead to catastrophic decisions. Forsberg and Pursiainen astutely observe that “group thinking has also played a role in several Finnish crises. In a small country such as Finland, the elite is united and it is important to belong to it. Therefore, conformity to group norms is often seen as more important than challenging the consensus, even if one has serious doubts about the policy line conducted.”
A strong groupthink is being created around the issue of NATO membership. This is epitomised by weekly polling creating a consensus frenzy financed by vested interests. Then there is the constant drip of notable personalities like Stubb, Katainen et al. being paraded in the media promoting their vision of a European superstate.
The Finnish population is clearly in shock and vested interests are taking the opportunity to re-set the agenda, introduce a radical shift in foreign policy and promote themselves as the saviours of Finland in crisis.
Katja Boxberg and Taneli Heikka in cooperation with the Centre for European Studies wrote: “For decades, Finns were led to believe that they lived in an Arcadia. In truth, they live in a state of delusion, not unlike the world of the science fiction film The Matrix. There, dissidence was forbidden, mistakes were not discussed, alternatives were non-existent. The delusion was contrived by Consensus: forced unanimity.”
Vested Interests. Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the military-industrial complex. These are the real experts in the dark arts of lobbying. Transparency International has for years highlighted the insidious nature of lobbying in the EU. Do Finns believe that they are immune from such influences?
Robert Asprey has written extensively on asymmetrical warfare and the success of non-conventional forces. What is happening in Ukraine is an example of a weaker military force through guerilla tactics resisting conventional forces. Vietnam, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan all show the potential success of such tactics which would probably be the kind of battlefield Finns would be engaged in if they were not part of NATO and the Russians decided on military confrontation.
But Finland has just invested 8+ billion euros in American fighter jets. Again, if you look at military history and the Six-Day War, 73’ Yom Kippur War, the first Gulf War, examples from WW2 and blitzkrieg there are many well-documented examples of a weaker force losing its air assets in the first 48hrs of a conflict.
Why is no one raising questions about Finnish military procurement? The only scenario I can see the value of such an investment in air assets is in offensive operations. So, if Finland joins NATO is anyone asking about Finnish engagement in foreign operations like Libya or Yugoslavia? What happens in potential future confrontations and NATO gets involved? Will Finnish jets (and pilots) or other military assets be deployed?
Who benefits from this paradigmatic shift in joining a military alliance? If you follow the money, you might get some answers.
Whilst there are global corporations pulling the strings in every aspect of society, what about those in Finland? I will hypothesise that they are largely male, white, have a similar university education, be pro-EU and have existing or future careers in political parties or business groups that have a vested interest in seeing the European project progress. But even those who are against the European superstate eg the Finns Party are in deference mode because of fear and the need to comply. There is no diversity in the discussion on membership. I do not mean ethnic or racial diversity, but the diversity of ideas to allow people to make informed decisions.
Those promoting the European agenda are coalescing around NATO membership because they see the creation of a European superstate. What do you think the Russians can see given their history of violent conflict with the West? John Mearsheimer makes some interesting observations on the causal drivers behind the conflicts in Ukraine and Georgia.
Klein’s shock doctrine is incisive and reveals the hidden and complex forces currently at play in Finland. I can see striking similarities with the actions of the political and military stakeholders in the Blair years, when, under the crisis shadow of the threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction the UK was thrown into a catastrophic war in Iraq. But then there was no silent acquiescence by ordinary people and they raised their voices. It is not happening in Finland. Will it be when Finnish military assets are used in the future under the auspices of NATO and Finns will be combatants and not peacemakers? But then it will be too late.
By Graham Wood
Graham Wood has been a lecturer at the University of Helsinki for over thirty years. He gained his Executive MBA from Aalto and his PhD from the Faculty of Social Sciences at Helsinki University where he researched conflict and collective violence. He is also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in the UK.
This is a "Viewpoint" opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of The Helsinki Times. This column is not fact-checked and HT is not responsible for any possible inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article.