WE MUST FORGET THE PAST AND LOOK TO THE FUTURE
By VAINO TANNER, Foreign Minister of Finland
Delivered over radio March 13, 1940 [Excerpts]
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VI, pp. 376-378.
FINLAND was drawn into war through no fault of her own. Territorial demands were presented to her and she was prepared to satisfy these demands to a reasonable extent. This notwithstanding, the negotiations broke down.
Finland trusted, however, in agreements concluded with her neighbor and in the desire for peace repeatedly proclaimed by this neighbor and did not believe war would break out. Nevertheless war did break out and the country was compelled to defend itself.
Right from the beginning it was evident the struggle would be an unequal one. * * *
The battle has been stern. Defending ourselves against a superior enemy, our army has been compelled to exert itself to the utmost. * * *
They have behaved—I will not say as heroes, for that would be too everyday a word—but as men.
Stood Up to Terrorism The home front, too, has stood well all the terrorism which the total war waged on us has brought with it. Despite almost daily aerial bombardments, the spirit of the home front has remained magnificently confident and a model of efficiency has been maintained in its work.
All our efforts, meanwhile, have been hampered by one great deficiency. We are a small nation and can set against the enemy only a fraction of the forces which have been set rolling against us. Because of this the same men have had to remain under fire the whole time. And even the pluckiest troops gradually become weary.
Gaps, too, are always caused in the ranks in war. Thus we were in sore need of reinforcements. But these have not been forthcoming. A number of volunteers have hastened to our aid but their number, compared to the assistance needed, has been very small. * * *
We have continued to send out appeals for help to overcome this deficiency. Our neighbors, the Scandinavian States, for whom it would have been easiest for geographical reasons to send troops to our aid, have not regarded themselves as being in a position to do so.
The Western Allies, after hesitating for some time in the beginning, have announced their willingness to send to this country a fully equipped expeditionary force if this country so requests.
This promise has been frequently repeated during the past weeks. On the latest occasion, a couple of days ago, the Prime Ministers of both countries, Mr. Chamberlain and M. Daladier, have given public assurances that their respective nations are ready, immediately on request to that effect by Finland, to stand by our side in the struggle with the aggressor.
Our military command has carefully studied this scheme for our assistance. Its details have been exhaustively discussed. It has been found to be effective in every respect. Yet it contains one weak point. How are these reinforcements to reach this country? The geographical situation of Finland places difficulties in the way. So long as the Baltic Sea is dosed, that sea route is out of the question. The route to Petsamo is long and difficult, and it is, further, held by the enemy.
The only possible route lies across the Scandinavian countries, through Norway and Sweden. The governments of these two countries have been approached by the Finnish Government on several occasions with a request for permission for Allied auxiliary forces to pass through their territory. A similar request has been made by the governments of the Allies. This permission, however, has been categorically refused on behalf of both countries concerned.
Thus our country has been left to settle its relations with our powerful opponent alone. We have shown the path which small nations must take in the face of demands by dictator States. It has not been our fault that the democratic States have either been unwilling or unable to help us in this unequal struggle.
All that can be said against us is that as a nation we are too small. In spite of the great success of our defense, we cannot alone carry this struggle to a victorious end.
As no help is forthcoming, the outcome of the struggle is plain. If war continues, this country is in danger of being conquered and its population of being placed in a hopeless position.
When this eventuality became plain we began to explore the possibilities of peace. * * * Contacts [with Russia] finally led to the departure of delegates of the Finnish Government for Moscow on March 6 to open direct negotiations with the Soviet Government.
Meanwhile, however, hostilities have proceeded as intensely as ever. It is probably a unique phenomenon that delegates of a State proceeded in the midst of a fiercely raging war to an enemy capital to negotiate without a previous armistice. The Soviet Government, however, was not desirous of agreeing to an armistice before peace had been concluded.
During the negotiations * * * in Moscow delegates ofthe Soviet Union presented their terms for peace. These terms are unexpectedly severe compared with what the enemy has so far succeeded in achieving by war. They also greatly exceed the demands presented by the Soviet Government last Autumn in the name of the increased security of Leningrad.
Our delegates have attempted * * * to secure alleviation of these terms, but in vain. In spite of the severity of the terms the government has regarded assent to them as being in the national interest. As we have no hope of securing better terms by continuing the war, it has been preferred to agree to the present terms rather than continue a hopeless war.
Finland having consented, the treaty of peace was signed last night and at the same time it was agreed that hostilities should cease today. * * *
Our eastern frontier will run approximately where it was fixed at the peace of Uusikaupunki in 1721. Cape Hangoe will be ceded. Similarly our territory on the Rybachi peninsula in Petsamo.
On the other hand, no political demands have been presented to us. The Soviet Union does not intend to interfere in either our domestic or our foreign policy. That would, indeed, have been a demand which we could not have accepted.
Further, the right of this country to self-determination remains inviolable. The Kuusinen "government," to which the future fate of this country was to have been entrusted, according to the scheme drawn up at the beginning of the war, has been thrust aside.
As will appear from these preliminary reports * * * peace imposes a heavy burden on this country. Only with great hesitation has the government consented to it. The decision was all the more difficult to reach in that no one could foresee what the near future would bring.
In this case it will become evident only at a later stage, as is the case of all great political decisions, whether the decision was right or wrong.
The government, meanwhile, has had to shoulder the responsibility. In the government's opinion, the wisest course was to conclude peace while our resistance was still unbroken.
Peace has thus returned to this country. But what a peace!
Henceforth the nation will continue its existence in a state of mutilation. Its old frontiers have been altered. Areas of vital importance have had to be surrendered, including important industrial and agricultural areas.
The population of ceded areas will have to seek new dwelling places.
Our future possibilities for defense are weakened. Nevertheless, in the government's opinion, peace was better than to go on with an uncertain war.
With the restoration of peace we shall return to a more normal existence in the measure in which the continuing war between the great powers allows.
In this connection, new and great tasks in abundance will be imposed on us. We must begin to remedy the wounds struck by war. New work of construction must be begun. In all this, I am convinced we shall succeed. * * *
Our country has been devastated before this during the course of its history. Its population has once been reduced by nearly half. Even from such depths we have ascended again.
Finland will become a vigorous nation and her people
prosper as before. We have land in abundance. Our opportunities for fruitful work are boundless. And our army is still whole. It can keep watch that our peace will not be disturbed in the future.
One thing, however, is essential. The unanimity which war brought us we shall, it is to be hoped, preserve. It was created by outside pressure. So long as European affairs arein their present state of confusion the danger of new complications is constantly present.
Because of this we must continue to hold together, united and therefore strong. * * *
We must forget the past and look to the future. If we succeed in this, we will be a promise of regeneration for Finland, after the blow we have endured.