Article Ahead of Print – Helsinki Syndrome: The Parachronistic Renaissance of Finlandization in International Politics

Read the full article – The Helsinki Syndrome by Tapio Juntunen – in Online First

Helsinki Syndrome, Definition: 

  1. Psychology: Colloquial misnomer for Stockholm Syndrome
  2. International Relations (practice): Unfavourable domestic political culture stemming from an ultra-realist and circumspect reading of one’s foreign policy latitude in relation to a major power in the proximity of one’s territory. Tacit but deeply ingrained policy of acquiescence that can cut through multiple sectors of society and cultural life to the extent that the weaker state starts to feel a habitual sympathy towards the dominating state, even actively defending its ‘legitimate security interests’. Similarly to the case between the captive and the captor in the widely-described phenomena of ‘Stockholm syndrome’.
  3. International Relations (theory): Repeated parachronistic error in use of historical example to make a point about the present – usually to support claims about ‘iron laws’ of great power politics, the transhistorical logic of international anarchy or the superiority of ‘Realist’ approaches to IR.

Article Summary:

The crisis in Ukraine has had several important effects on international relations – both in theory and practice. Chief among them is that it has been used to claim a resurgence of Great Powers amidst a return to ‘classical geopolitics’. Russia’s actions have been seized upon as evidence of the return of the dangers of ignoring the ‘rules’ of the ‘great game, primarily for the EU and its member states by scholars such as John Mearsheimer and Andrew Wilson. In this insightful analysis, Tapio Juntunen provides a new perspective on the way that leading expert commentators make selective use of historical examples to skew the picture when telling us we should ‘get real’. Juntunen highlights how Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski and other influential figures have inspired a strange renaissance of the notion of ‘Finlandization’ as a concept – and a prescription – in international relations. He shows not only why Finlandization doesn’t work as concept today, torn from its Cold War context, but also how far from being a ‘lesson of history’ from which we can learn – as Kissinger and Brzezinski would want – its amounts instead to a ‘history of lessons’. The intent is to try and convince us that there is no other way than to conform to the ‘iron laws’ of Great Power politics. Succumbing to this Helsinki Syndrome would have far reaching, negative implications for the study and practice of IR, but also for the lives and choices of Ukrainians. Juntunen thus provides a timely and important intervention into the debate over the current interregnum in the international order and the way certain actors are trying to skew it.