In countering Russian non-linear wafare and so-called “hybrid operations”, the identification and publication of Kremlin-linked networks of influence is an essential act for every country with a potentially high level of FSB (and KGB) penetration in its society and government.
As mentioned before in my articles about lustration in general, use of “kompromat” and finlandization, Finland has not taken the problem too seriously despite some positive developments, such as establishing the EU-NATO Centre for countering hybrid threats. The shadow of the Cold War era “finlanzdation” is still very long, as many politicians and officials (or their “heirs”) with careers that were supported by the KGB, remain power. This influences not only the security situation and openness in Finland but also of the whole western community, especially the European Union. It led even be said that the lack of lustration in Finland is partially reponsible for the delicate security environment we’re now facing all over the Baltic Sea region.
KGB as a platform of making careers
After World War II, Finland remained a non-socialist country but the price of relatively significant political and economic autonomy was to maintain good relations with the Moscow. This soon became a platform for political games. Acceptance, and in many cases, clear support from Moscow was needed to further one’s career and the networks of influence spread like mushrooms in a Belarusian forests after the Chernobyl nuclear accident – which, by the way was widely ignored by then Soviet-loyal president of Finland Mauno Koivisto. Both Koivisto and his party comrade, a “confidential” contact of the CPSU, prime minister Kalevi Sorsa, “kept up the relations through the party line”. This was a euphemism used when contact with KGB officers was constant.
As part of the generation of political secretaries and advisors who served during President Urho Kekkonen’s tenure, Koivisto and Sorsa grew up in an environment when this kind of collaboration was normal – yet the depth of it varied depending on the party, generation and of course one’s position. Based of Vasily Mitrokhin’s extensive KGB archives, Sorsa can be evaluated as the favourite of the Soviets. Later, President Tarja Halonen as well as later prime minister and Nord Stream lobbyist Paavo Lipponen also worked as his secretary.
The political neutrality of the Finnish Security Police can be read into from a memo written about Seppo Nevala, who was chosen to fill the role of deputy chief of the organization from 1978 and as chief 1996-2007. In the memo, Nevala is described as a man whose use of alcohol and penchant for pompous situations could cause problems in some circumstances. He was named to hold the post despite the fact that he was also mentioned to be formally incompetent – yet he had good relations with Sorsa, whom he had worked for a relatively long time.
Chief of the KGB department for assassinations, Viktor Vladimirov wrote in his memoirs “Näin se oli… Muistelmia ja havaintoja kulissientakaisesta diplomaattitoiminnasta Suomessa 1954–1984” (1993) that young social democrats were even closer friends with the Soviets than the Finnish communists. Yet Vladimirov is an unreliable source, it is clear that even the top political elite met with him regularly as well as some other Eastern bloc intelligence officers. The Finnish Security Police and political elite seemed to have accepted “the assassination boss” in Helsinki; why, and what he used Finland for is still quite largely unknown history.
Historical connections between the The Soviet Union and Finland’s modern political leadership
You never forget your first love
One of the most influential left-wing radicals to have climbed to the top of Finland’s political elite is Social Democrat Erkki Tuomioja, who leaked the so-called Zavidovo memo to the media in February 1972. It is widely accepted that the purpose of the leak was to damage, and if possible, stop the Finnish-EEC association process – something the Kremlin-loyalist forces in Ukraine tried to do, with success, in 2013 in their own country.
Last week Olli Ainola claimed in an article in Iltalehti, that Tuomioja – who now holds a seat in parliamentary committee of foreign affairs – has formed an opposition group in Parliament to counter the foreign policies supported by president Sauli Niinistö.
After the war in Ukraine escalated, then Minister of Foreign Affairs Tuomioja, questioned the implementation of sanctions established by the European Union. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, he has been one of the most outspoken voices against Finnish membership in NATO. He has also openly admitted meeting with his KGB contacts during this time. According to journalist Olli Ainola, the role of Tuomioja and then-president Halonen was essential in making the work of Finnish military intelligence more challenging.
One of the less-known, yet influential young left-wing radicals from that same era is Ilkka-Christian Björklund, who started his career in SKDL (which was the electoral cover organization of the Finnish communists) and later became a member of the Social Democrats. In Tuomioja’s diaries of 1995-1997, called “Luulin olevani aika piruileva” (2016), he indicates that he was worried about whether Björklund could get a job anywhere. This happened as soon as Björklund was hired to work for Social Democratic minister Antti Kalliomäki and later to held the post of deputy mayor of Helsinki (Tuomioja himself had left from a similar position 9 years before). Yet Björklund has shown exceptional openness towards Finnish membership in NATO during recent years, yet he seems to have had a close relationship with Mr. Tuomioja – at least in the 1990’s.
In the light of archival material and other sources it seems Ilkka-Christian Björklund can be associated with an East German intelligence service contact operation called “Fortuna” (1968-1977), which includes four work files and about 1200 pages.
Björklund has admitted his communication with the East German embassy.
According to Björklund, after returning from his job in Copenhagen to Finland in 1987, he continued to communicate with DDR officials. According to archives, “Fortuna” delivered the new defence plan draft of the Danish Social Democrats to a Stasi official and reported about the meetings of the Socialist International that had taken place. The KGB tried to turn SI to serve its goals and also used the services of Kalevi Sorsa, who headed the committee responsible of disarmament of the organization.
Western institutions under attack
Finland has been one of the key states that the Eastern intelligence services have hoped to damage, including the western institutions to which it belongs or is affiliated with. Many Finns have more or less accepted this – some for ideological reasons, others because they believe that appeasement, paradoxically, enhances state sovereginty. The actions of Finnish socialists in the SI of the Nordic council, their politicians in the European Union and willingness to let a Soviet assasination chief work in Helsinki can all be undersood from this point of view.
Finland was enthusiastic about European Union policy in the early 2000’s. Yet those were times when some even speculated about a bright new and western future for Russia. It soon proved to be a utopia, yet the goal of integrating Russia and the EU was still promoted by many Finnish politicians years later. The Nord Stream consulting post of former prime minister Paavo Lipponen and the dream of him heading the European Commission can be seen as the most clear examples of this. Also the new party secretary of the Social Democrats, Antton Rönnholm, has worked for Lipponen and Russian gas business.
Russia seeks not only the destruction of western institutions, but also the subversion of bilateral relations between nations and their leaders. The strategic partnership between Finland and Estonia is essential from the point of view of regional security. After all, the question of Baltic security has much broader implications that reach beyond the immediate region; the entire western security infrastructure and NATO depend on it.
Last week Olli Ainola claimed in an article in Iltalehti, that Tuomioja – who now holds a seat in parliamentary committee of foreign affairs – has formed an opposition group in Parliament to counter the foreign policies supported by president Sauli Niinistö. According to Ainola, these policies include a relatively high level of commitment towards the security of the Baltic States.
Both Tuomioja and Niinistö denied the existence of any significant disagreement between them. However, at least rhetorically, you can spot differences. Although 1/4 Estonian (his grandmother was famous native-Estonian KGB agent Ella Murrik/Hella Wuolijoki, Tuomioja has actively criticised the Estonia’s foreign policy. In stark contrast, when Estonian President, Kersti Kaljulaid, paid her first visit to Finland as president, Niinistö described Finland and Estonia as siblings.
Yet it is completely possible, and even likely, that sources used by Ainola may have disinformed him on this exact issue in efforts to damage Finnish-Estonian relations. We can’t ignore the fact that such claims are not as dangerous when there is no record of questionable motives and acts from the past. Therefore, vetting the KGB networks in Finland and other countries in the former Soviet sphere of influence, is not only a national matter but affects the future of whole free world.