Finland's basic foreign policy goal from the end of the Continuation War with the U.S.S.R. in 1944 until 1991 was to avoid great-power conflicts and to build mutual confidence with the Soviet Union. Although the country was culturally, socially, and politically Western, Finns realized they must live in peace with the U.S.S.R. and take no action that might be interpreted as a security threat. The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 opened up dramatic new possibilities for Finland and has resulted in the Finns actively seeking greater participation in Western political and economic structures. Finland joined the European Union in 1995.
Finnish foreign policy emphasizes its participation in multilateral organizations. Finland joined the United Nations in 1955 and the EU in 1995. As noted, the country also is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) Partnership for Peace as well as a member in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. As a NATO partner, Finland has 110 troops in Afghanistan serving with a Swedish-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in the province of Mazar-e-Sharif, working to create a secure environment for reconstruction in northern Afghanistan. It temporarily doubled its forces to support the presidential elections in Afghanistan.
Finland is well represented in the UN civil service in proportion to its population and belongs to several of its specialized and related agencies. Finnish troops have participated in UN peacekeeping activities since 1956, and the Finns continue to be one of the largest per capita contributors of peacekeepers in the world. Finland is an active participant in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and in early 1995 assumed the co-chairmanship of the OSCE's Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Finland chaired the OSCE in 2008 and was part of the Chairmanship Troika in 2009.
Cooperation with the other Scandinavian countries also is important to Finland, and it has been a member of the Nordic Council since 1955. Under the council's auspices, the Nordic countries have created a common labor market and have abolished immigration controls among themselves. The council also serves to coordinate social and cultural policies of the participating countries and has promoted increased cooperation in many fields.
In addition to the organizations already mentioned, Finland became a member of the following organizations: Bank for International Settlements, 1930; International Monetary Fund, 1948; International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 1948; General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), 1950; International Finance Corporation, 1956; International Development Association, 1960; European Free Trade Association, 1961; Asian Development Bank, 1966; Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 1969; Inter-American Development Bank, 1977; African Development Bank, 1982; Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, 1988; the Council of Europe, 1989; European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Central and Eastern Europe, 1991; World Trade Organization, 1995; and INTELSAT, 1999. Finland entered Stage Three of EMU (the European Monetary Union) in 1999. All the Nordic countries, including Finland, joined the Schengen area in March 2001.
Finland and Sweden together form a large expanse of neutral territory between the two military blocs of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Warsaw Pact. Finnish defense policy in the late 1980s was based on the principle that, while not directly threatened from any source, Finland was in danger of becoming involved in the event of a larger conflict between the great powers. In such an eventuality, Finnish territory might be violated in military operations targeting objectives beyond Finland's borders. If, as seemed most likely, the potential invader was primarily engaged elsewhere, determined Finnish defensive action should have a realistic chance to succeed, or at least to inflict severe damage sufficient to discourage potential incursions.
In recent years, there have been a growing number of collaborations between Nordic countries which will enhance the defense capabilities of the country along with boosting the indigenous market. Finland is a part of NORDEFCO (Nordic Defence Cooperation) which is a collaboration among the Nordic countries, established in 2009, with the objective of strengthening the member countries' defense capabilities and operational capacity through cost-effective collaboration. The partners have witnessed converging military needs including explosive devices, long-range precision weapons, air surveillance, ground air defenses, and future mechanized battalion system. Therefore, member countries have planned strategic solutions including enhanced regional security, heightened common equipment procurements, and the establishment of joint operating units.
The Nordic Vision 2020, rolled out in 2013, envisions an established committee of specialists and advisors responsible for conducting joint capacity building and security sector reform tasks. Moreover, regular cross-border training will contribute to maintaining and developing capabilities jointly, which will assist in the rapid deployment of forces to be used for the NATO Response Force and EU Battle Groups. Furthermore, the members aim to increase interoperability and create a pool of resources to facilitate air and sea surveillance in the Nordic region.
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