Finland, Nato and the Winter War; Don’t Come the Old Soldier…

Now that Finland and Sweden are planning to abandon neutrality and join the NATO warmongers, the Voice of America is on hand to cheer them on. The musings of two nonagenarian Finnish war veterans provide a touching “human interest” gloss for VOA’s latest falsification of history: Finnish veterans who fought Russian invasion support Nato membership

94 year old Tapio Niemi “recalls the day of the invasion. ‘It was a really scary situation for a little boy. I was 12 and at school, when the teacher came to the classroom and told us that a war has started between Finland and Russia and the school will be closed from now on.’ Five years later Niemi joined the army, serving on the home front”.

Given that the Winter War began at the end of November 1939 and ended with Finland’s well-deserved defeat in March 1940, what is meant by Niemi “serving on the home front” five years later? That would take us to 1944. By that time the Finnish government had shown its true colours and entered the Second World War on the side of Hitlerite Germany. Similarly we are told that his brother-in-arms, Unto Hajuli, joined the army in 1942, serving on the same “home front”. Is that what is intended by the vague “home front” euphemism : collaboration with the Nazis?

It suits VOA to blur Finland’s Winter War and her subsequent combat in the service of Hitlerite Germany, mixing it all up into one long fairy tale pitting plucky Finns against Russian bullies, and airbrushing out the whole rotten history of Finnish collaboration with the Nazis. VOA hopes that by this distortion of history it can help smooth Finland’s entry into NATO.

The Winter War came about in consequence of Finland’s refusal to consider making some minor border adjustments so as to pre-empt the very real threat of an imperialist penetration of the Gulf of Finland exposing Leningrad to attack.

In fact, far from being a land grab, the proposed adjustments involved a land swap which would have left Finland with more land, not less. The Soviet Union was not after expansion, only security. The object of the Soviet proposals was to make herself impregnable in the eastern Baltic. These proposals involved no infringement of Finland’s sovereignty. Nevertheless the negotiations reached deadlock and the Finnish delegation left Moscow on 13 November 1939, and on 26 November 1939 at 3.35 in the afternoon, the Finnish side suddenly opened fire on Soviet troops. Seven shells were fired, in which four Red Army men were killed and seven wounded. Matters escalated thereafter into the Winter War.

The war was hard fought in freezing conditions, but the Red Army smashed the Mannerheim Line in a frontal assault and by March prevailed. Russia offered what some consider to have been overly generous peace terms. With the benefit of hindsight, the September 1941 issue of the Iron and Steel Trades journal had this to say: “Subsequent events incline one reluctantly to the view that the real mistake Russia made was in being too lenient in her peace settlement. If she had occupied the whole of Finland, as Germany would have done under similar circumstances, it would have been impossible for another German pawn to be used against her.”

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