From a Special Correspondent
IT still remains uncertain whether the present Russian advance up the Karelian Isthmus is an all-out drive aimed at knocking out Finland for good, or is only a limited move to secure the right flank of large-scale operations against Germany through the Baltic States. But every day makes the first alternative look the more likely.
This country is at war with Finland and feelings are actually not friendly towards the Finns. All the same, there seems to be among the population of these isles, as well as in America, a certain understanding of the problems of Finland ; that the Finns arc not wholeheartedly on the side of Germany in this war: that it is a series of unfortunate and highly complicated events which have finally landed Finland in a most serious plight.
This view is opposed by certain quarters of the British press, whence one attack after another is launched against Finland: attacks which are neither very truthful nor objective but usually so homogeneous in their persistency that one might suspect them of being produced or inspired from the same source. Generally speaking, the following main points arc raised : (I) Finland to-day is controlled by a little clique of semi-Fascist, capi-' talistic imperialists.
(2) The Russo-Finnish war, as conducted by the Finnish Goverrmsent, is not so much one for boundaries and national integrity as for political issues and against Communism.
(3) The bulk of the Finnish population is war-weary and willing to accept any peace, but kept in the war by its present leaders.
These arguments are partly incomplete, partly fundamentally incorrect. Finland is and was a democracy,
and a democracy of small farmers. Since the days of thc civil war, a gradual, more moderate and more democratic political development tended to move Finland in line with the three other Scandinavian democracies among which she was accepted as an equal partner in spite of differences in language and race. 'Moreover the Scandinavian democracies were living realities, and there were very few such on the Continent. . .
As in Norway and Sweden the social-democratic party of Finland is the biggest both in the country and in Parliament. Parliament can whenever it wishes, return a vote of non-confidence in the Government. This has not been done so far. For this reason one may presume that it has not been possible to fen-ni a new Government which would take the responsibility for accepting and carrying out the present Russian peace terms, backed by a majority of the House.
Finland is not a highly industrialised country, neither domineered by a few capitalists. One may recall in this connection that one of the b;ggest commercial enterprises is the co-operative movement, hacked largely by the small farmers and the trade unions. As far as the retail part of this enterprise is concerned it is the biggest and best organised in the world, with the possible exception of its Swedish counterpart.
Strong National Feeling
As for the Finnish population, a Stranger had often reason to feel ill at ease at the rather bombastic. national self-assurance displayed by a number of Finns. A second thought should, however, allow for a certain forbearance in this respect. Finland started upon an independent national existence following the breakdown of Imperial Russia in the last war, after having been for centuries under foreign rule. In the circumstances a strong national feeling is only natural.
Finland does not fear Russia because.
the latter stands for a different economic system. The Finns fear Russia and the Russians as such, for reasons of their historic past and national misfortunes. To them there is little or no different between Prince Bobrikow's Imperial Cossacks and to-day's Red Guards.
It is beyond question that the Finnish population is war-weary. But the fear of Russia has so far been the stronger of the two. That the Finnish Government did not follow an imperialistic policy at the expense of the Soviet Union is best shown by the facf that their armies remained within the Karelian line, and did not venture
into Russia proper. No doubt it would have been possible in 1941 to have done so—during the time of Russia's greatest distress—and there js ample evidence that, at the time, Finland was hard pressed by the Germans to do so. . . However, they refused to venture upon a policy of adventure.
Both Sides of the Question
Thp fact remains that the RussoFinnish conflict is one of the most tragic features of the world war. When Germany in 1941 demanded bases in Finland and ac-operation for their war against Russia, who would have helped Finland had she refused? What chance would she have had in withstanding German arms with Germany already firmly established on the Fin
nish-Norwegian border? The only place to turn was Russia, hut how with the bitterness of the winter in fresh memory? These are the facts which brought about Finland's entry in the war on the side of Germany.
There remains the Russian side of the picture. It is deplorable but natural that the bitterness of a long and cruel war has somehow confused the original Russian issue of the struga isle: To secure a strategic favourable boundary and safeguard Leningrad. This argument was based upon the assumption of German aggression.
However with the doom of Nazi Germany rapidly approaching, one may presume that the Allied Nations will see to it that Germany is prevented from ever again entering the path of aggression. So why insist upon upholding the conclusion when the foundation can be removed?
Good Neighbour Policy One may also be allowed to presume that a good neighbour policy and a sincere wish on the part of Russia to overcome the inborn Finnish distrust would have produced far better results as to the willingness of Finland to resist in the event of German pressure than the ' disastrous winter-war and the introduction of Quisling's infamous predecessor—the pretender Krosinen.
England and America should try to persuade their great Russian ally to show lenience in the case pf Finland. And Russia in the hour of her great triumph would do wise in showing seine understanding for Finland and the Finnish character. Finland cannot entire:11y escape the consequences of her unfortunate policy, neither do responsible Finnish politicians expect to. What remains imperative is to give Finland a feeling of security, that the country might be left in peace to recover from its severe wounds, and continue the development of its land without interference from abroad.
The Russian peace terms should also be moderated. • Apart from the difficulties involved in disposing of the German Army in Northern Finland, there is the question of the borderadjustments, demobilisation, etc. And the annual payment ofreparations in kind of some £30 million during a period of five years. an amount equivalent to three-quarters of Finland's prewar export, should also he moderated. To what extent this burden would affect the country's economic life after more than three years of total war should be self evident.