Saimaa Canal as Russia’s Gambit

The parties agreed to a 50-year lease and extended the treaty in 2013 by 2063.

As Finland rushes to join NATO, Russia has taken such steps. Paasikivi-Kekkonen line — Finland’s neutral and friendship foreign policy.

A precursor to the change is a statement by Russian Duma officials that Moscow could revise the terms of the Saimaa Canal lease if Finland becomes a member of NATO.

“As relations between Russia and any country deteriorate, treaties signed during the period of better relations may have made sense at the time. It is quite natural. [to revise the lease of the Saimaa Canal]— Dmitry NovikovThe first Vice-Chairman of the International House of Representatives told the Russian newspaper Izvestia.

The Russian Canal Ministry and the Rothmorech Flot Marine Agency, which oversees the Saimaa Canal, did not comment on the adjutant’s statement. Amendments to international treaties are being made at the level of the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The House of Representatives is responsible for ratifying the territorial leasing agreement, but not for its accusations or amendments. However, the House of Representatives of the Russian Parliament has the authority to submit this proposal for the government to consider — and it may be quite permanent.

Finland is already on the list of Russia’s “unfriendly” countries, among other EU member states.

Revenge on NATO tilt

A statement from the House of Representatives came as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland Pekka Haavisto On April 26, he said it would be “useful” to start a joint NATO membership bid between Finland and Sweden. However, he admitted that each country has no fixed date for potential applications. From May 16th to 18th, Finnish and Swedish leaders will meet in Stockholm.

In response to a question about the revision of the agreement on the Saimaa Canal, the Russian embassy in Helsinki told Izvestia, “If Finland joins this block, Russia needs to take the necessary steps to secure its profits.” Told. The diplomats quoted in the newspaper did not specify what these measures would look like.

Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs speaker Maria Zakharova Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO has previously stated that it will have a negative impact on peace in Northern Europe. But she didn’t even specify what these steps would entail.

The lease agreement provides that Finland does not have the right to use the Russian portion of the Saimaa Canal for the passage of warships. It is neither under the Finnish flag nor under any other flag. This means that NATO will not be able to use the Saimaa Canal to legally pass warships into Finland’s inland waters under the terms of the current treaty if Finland joins the alliance further.

From this point of view, even if Finland joins NATO, the canal does not pose a military threat to Russia.

As Nikolai MezevicIn a conversation with Izvestia, the president of the Russian Baltic Research Association said that Finland’s accession to NATO certainly changed the rules of the game and marks the end of the current “special level relationship” between Finland and Russia. I said it would be.

Until recently, the relationship between the two countries was valued as strategically important, Mejevic argues.

Special level relationship between Vladimir Putin Finnish authorities date back to the time when Putin led the Diplomatic Commission of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) from 1991 to 1992 and was directly involved in negotiations with the Finnish trade delegation.

Economic impact

Historian of the University of Helsinki, Jyrki Paaskoski The Saimaa Canal Agreement is bilateral, so Russia cannot change its terms on its own without negotiations with Finland, he told the Helsinki Times.

— The contract was signed for 50 years and entered into force in 2010. According to the lease agreement, the notice period is 12 months. I think it’s possible for Russia to end the deal, but that’s not an advantage, experts said.

In his opinion, the Finnish forest industry will switch to road and rail transport when the agreement ends. Imports from Russia are already subject to sanctions and Paaskoski continues, so the implications of a contract termination are not disastrous.

The main commodities transported along the Saimaa Canal are logs, wood, cargo, fertilizer and paper.

In November 2021, Russia decided to stop exporting raw materials through waterways. This measure was subsequently discussed at the highest level during President Niinistö’s visit to Russia last October.

Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin then called Moscow’s decision unfortunate. However, she revealed that it had nothing to do with the talks between Finnish and NATO leaders held by the end of the fall.

Russia is Finland’s third largest trading partner, after Germany and Sweden. Statistics Finland estimates that Finland’s exports of goods and services to Russia in 2021 will be € 4.4 billion. Russia accounted for 5% of Finland’s exports.

In terms of the Russian market, Finland was only 15th in foreign trade sales in 2021.

A study released by the Finnish Ministry of Finance on April 13 predicts the negative impact of the Ukrainian crisis on the Finnish economy. Growth is projected to be 1.5% this year, lower than previously expected.

“The sanctions will effectively stop Finland’s foreign trade with Russia and curb Finland’s economic growth this year,” the ministry said.

The economic benefits of the Saimaa Canal are best understood from the results of a survey conducted by the Finnish waterways in 2019. Shipping goods by ship from Joensu to Düsseldorf via the Saimaa Canal has been shown to be twice as cheap and three times faster than using alternatives. Trucks, ferries, trains, etc. that pass through Karelia.

From Tsar to Khrushchev

The Saimaa Canal was first opened in 1856 and was the largest construction ever completed in what was then known as the Grand Duchess of Finland.

Until World War II, the territory adjacent to the Saimaa Canal was Finnish territory. However, in 1944, the Soviet Union occupied the southern half of the canal and then the country’s second largest city, Viipuri or Vyborg. And the traffic on the channel suddenly stopped.

Finland did not belong to the Soviet sphere, but Moscow regarded it as a bailiwick from the mid-1930s, and the Soviet Union sprouted a powerful intelligence agency in the country. The KGB’s workforce was second only to the United States. Even Nazi Germany at the time had few hosts.

Moscow forced Finland to join the Soviet security system through the 1948 Friendship and Cooperation Treaty and the Mutual Aid Treaty, ensuring that Helsinki would not gambling in the Cold War.

The Soviet Union saw the 1962 Cymer Agreement as a guarantee of Finland’s neutrality in the upcoming conflict with the West and in support of the newly elected President Urho Kekkonen for the second term. ..

The international situation at that time was harsh due to the Caribbean crisis between the Soviet Union and the United States. Only one year has passed since the Berlin Wall was built in August 1961. This has reached the pinnacle of open conflict between the divided German powers.

Helsinki-Moscow relations cooled sharply in 1961 — the Soviet Union held talks on Baltic security issues in Finland and was eager to end the friendship treaty with the Soviet Union. Requested the dissolution of Holm’s pro-Western government, therefore Moscow considers it a Warmonger.

Moscow has blocked ongoing negotiations on the Saimaa Canal and mutual trade, stemming from its “national security interests.” In the end, President Kekkonen was forced to dissolve the parliament. The move softened Khrushchev, and he did not freeze the path of Cymer’s negotiations at once.

After the canal was rebuilt and opened in 1968, Finland’s GDP in 1969 increased by 9.6% year-on-year.

One of the first steps Nikita Khrushchev took to fine-tune his relationship with Helsinki was to close the Porkkalanniemi Naval Base in 1955, which was leased by the Soviet Union, and to withdraw Soviet troops from the territory. It was a decision.

“I thought putting the knife under my throat as a military base was not the best way to win the trust of the Finnish people,” Khrushchev wrote in his diary at the time.

The Saimaa Canal cannot be considered an analog of the “knife” under the throat of the Finnish economy, as the potential loss due to the termination of the agreement does not endanger the existence of the country.

according to Timoso IkanenProfessor of Political History at the University of Turku said: “The economic impact of breaking a rental contract on the Saimaa Canal is not so serious. The cultural and historical significance of this channel is much more important.”

Find an alternative

Finland is already looking for alternative routes to transport goods from Lake Saimaa, while Russia has signaled a revision of the Cymer Treaty.

There are two options-dig a new channel via Kymijoki or Mäntyharju.

The distance from Cymer to the sea along these routes is about 200 km and includes 13 locks. This is four times as long as the Saimaa Canal, which is only 43km long.

The current Kymijoki canal runs along Lake Pyhäjärvi, along the coast between Kotka and Hamina in the Gulf of Finland.

The construction of the Saimaa Canal in the 1840s and 1850s cost Russia 3 million rubles, exceeding the annual GDP of the Grand Duchess of Finland. Switching from an existing corridor to Kimijoki or Mäntyharju may not be economically attractive, but Finland needs to consider the need for such alternative water as Russia plans to terminate the lease. I have.

Elna by Nazarov Saimaa Canal as Russia’s Gambit

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