President Donald Trump claimed in a press conference Monday that Finland and Russia have had a good relationship and that Finland has been free of Russia for a hundred years.
During a joint press conference Monday with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Trump stated that Finland and Russia, which share an 800-mile border, have a good relationship and also that Finland has been free of Russia for a hundred years, but the reality is that relations between Finland and Russia are tense currently, and the last hundred years have seen multiple bloody conflicts, particularly during World War II.
“Finland has been respected by Russia. Finland has been free of Russia, one of the few countries that have been for 100 years. And Russia has a lot of respect for Finland, so that’s always good. I think Finland is doing fine with Russia. And I hope that the United States will someday be able to have a very good relationship with Russia also,” Trump said, in effect implying that the relationship between Finland and Russia is “very good.”
While Finland gained its independence in 1917 as the Russian Empire was crumbling and the USSR grudgingly accepted this move, relations between the two countries remained incredibly frosty, leading to brutal conflicts. Specifically, Finland and Russia fought two devastating wars during World War II called the Winter War in 1939 and the Continuation War in 1944. Both wars resulted in 90,000 casualties on the Finnish side and 320,000 on the Russian end. The Winter War began when Joseph Stalin invaded in the winter of 1939-1940.
Although Finland managed to successfully fight off a full-scale invasion despite being hopelessly outmatched, the country nevertheless had to cede at least 10 percent of its pre-war territory to Russia. In the aftermath of World War II and during the Cold War, the Soviet Union completely dominated Finland’s foreign policy, though Finland did technically maintain independence.
More recently, Finland has supported sanctions against Russia and backed the NATO military alliance, even though it is not technically a formal member. As such, Finland has sent troops to Poland and other Baltic states to participate in military exercises designed to warn Russia of the consequences of invasion, effectively putting the lie to the idea that Finland and Russia have enjoyed and still enjoy a “very good” relationship.
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