On the 13th of March, 1940, Foreign Minister Günther gave in both chambers of the Parliament the following address:
Mr. Chairman! An ultimately important message about peace between Finland and Russia have reached us today. We, peoples of the North, who hate and detest war, sense today better than ever before the profound and holy meaning of peace. The news about peace comes now, however, also as sad news because the peace cost so much blood and, first of all, because it was bought with so heavy sacrifices of our sister nation. But if ever a nation have fighted her way to the peace through a war forced upon her, preserving intact honour and clear conscience, that is what the Finnish people did in this war.
The results of the peace negotiations are not yet fully known. Therefore one has to wait to say here, what the most important things are. But something can already now be said, and one of those things that can and must be said are some words to explain, what actions the Swedish government took to make way to the now concluded peace. There is even a bigger reason for this, because in certain circles abroad a distorted and often a completely untrue picture of our contribution have been presented.
Already from the very beginning of the war the Finnish government announced that it is ready to resume the earlier broken off negotiations for a peaceful settlement. Obviously, we sought for a way to support it in its wishes to find a basis for negotiations. In the beginning this seemed to be hopeless but towards the end of January also the Russian side showed its willingness to reach a solution. In result of this a certain contact could be established and, finally, progress was made so that a Finnish delegation went to Moscow - reaching a result that is now in front of us.
As a matter of fact there is no real reason to state that the Swedish government, in its role as a mediator, refrained from everything that might be harmful to Finland. It, on the contrary, seeked every possibility to promote the interests of Finland. Some say that even forwarding Russian proposals, hardly considered acceptable by the Finnish government, were unfriendly actions against Finland. Such kinds of opinions are hard to understand. Undeniably, in every situation it was of great value to the Finnish government to become informed about the objectives its enemies were pursuing. Providing information about this has nothing to do with any pressure, and neither the Finnish government has understood it that way. It can be made clear, without any hesitation, that there has been no pressure of any kind from our side. It has been necessary to keep the Finns informed about the very limits on the Swedish assistance, which were drawn by the unfortunate international constellations. These restrictions may have disappointed the Finnish people and might have impacted on their government's policy. But they have not been used to bring about an unfavourable peace for Finland, and no attempt of any kind was either made to influence Finland's decision to continue the war or to approve one or the other terms of peace.
From the moment when the parties met at the negotiation table, Sweden's role as an intermediary naturally ceased. It should be mentioned, that the terms of peace that we forwarded from Moscow to Helsinki, were not the same as now in the peace treaty. For instance, something completely new came forward in cession of a territory at Salla and Kuusamo as well as in the agreement to build a railway from Kandalaksha to Kemijärvi. These terms have a special interest to us.
It shoul also be mentioned that the Swedish mediation for accomplishing peace and finding a settlement took place without the slightest role of any foreign power. There has been insinuations that Germany pressured in a certain way the Swedish government in this matter. The truth is that not a word was exchanged between the Swedish and German governments, and neither any other government even tried, in a smallest amount, to intervene the Swedish mediation.
However, what Sweden did in this way to promote a peaceful solution, is of secondary importance. The Swedish people can today tell itself, without boasting or exaggeration, that they really exerted their whole energy to make as much help available to the Finnish people as they could. Financially, this meant that approximately 400 000 000 crowns was set in form of loans and gifts at their disposal. The especially unfavourable international situation made it impossible to stretch this aid to a direct military intervention be it from our side or in cooperation with Western powers. With sorrow in heart, said the King in his message a short time ago, we had to make it clear to ourselves that we cannot intervene militarily. With sorrow in heart, we had to see that an intervention policy with our cooperation could had thrown us and probably all the Nordic countries into the great Power war and, in which, we had only been able to play the roles of pawns in the great Power game, only to become sacrificed for larger and more important interests than our own vital questions. No one cannot expect that the Swedish government, with open eyes, plays a part in bringing the war and, perhaps, its main focus to our territory. What had the fate of Sweden and Finland then been?
There should prevail an almost complete unanimity over this matter in our country. On the other hand, in Finland it has been difficult to see the ominous link between the two wars. When Sweden and Norway refused to expose the Nordic countries to risks of catastrophic size, it was misunderstood as if it were only question of sticking to a once defined policy of neutrality at all costs. They have not wanted to understand that neutrality in this case was a requirement of insuperable circumstances. Even though the situation was made clear to the Finnish government in several occasions, it finally became evident, as soon as Sweden and Norway saw how threatening the situation was to all the Nordic countries, that only an official statement in this matter could disperse the dangerous misunderstanding among the Finnish people, who were expecting assistance coming from the Nordic countries or from the Western powers. This is why such statements were publicized. It is understandable that this caused disappointment among the Finnish people but the reality had brought along far more dangerous consequences if Finland had continued waging war under false presumptions and in expectation of a quick relief, which in fact did not stand inside the limits of reality.
In question of voluntary help opinions are noticeably divided also in our country. The prospects and the real significance of the Swedish contribution on the road of voluntary help can be given different appraisals. We all have the most genuine understanding for the young men, who saw themselves called to risk their own lives in the freedom fight of Finland - yes, we do not only understand them but we show them our deep respect and our warmest sympathy. They certainly have not done their deed for nothing. They have also made a great work to their own country. By giving an evidence that also the Swedish youth is strong in its enthusiasm, courage and spirit of sacrifice, they have accomplished a deed of permanent value for future.
On the other hand, one should also understand those who could not shut their eyes to the horrendous possibility that volunteers, how many they ever enlisted, could only end in ultimate sacrifices among the best of our youth without being able to achieve this way any decisive turn in the course of war. Also this opinion, based on a deep conviction in a most important question deserves to be held in respect. I guess that nobody believed that a detachment of volunteers could by some magic tricks be turned into an army of a great Power scale with all the equipment and constant maintanance needed for this.
But now it is not the time to dispute about the question of volunteers or something else in matters of our assistance to Finland. Now it is time to show a new strong mind and hold on the matter. Rebuilding Finland after her losses under the war and in peace now are in front of us, and it goes without saying that we have to be in it, too. This is the duty on which we have to direct all the resources that were reserved for helping our sister nation during the war. It will require great sacrifices from us also in future but I have no doubts that the Swedish people will agree on them, too. We have been taught, in a lesson never to be forgetted, how tightly the fates of the Nordic peoples are connected with each other. Consequently, these peoples should be ready, even in a more devoted form than before, to aim their policies towards common vital interests and to take, on the basis of the newly learned experiences, the question of strengthening Nordic cooperation under an unprejudiced consideration.
Finland concluded now a peace that has cost a heavy sacrifice. But it leaves the war with a fully preserved independence and having shown that she possesses strength and will to resist, which are great political assets in the future. In history, Finland's fight for her freedom will shine brightly. No nation but Finland is now so honoured and admired. Respected her name flies around the globe. We, her closest neighbors, are the first ones to take part in this honouring and are those who do it most sincerely.
To ourselves, this peace means a great relief in a most threatening situation. But this means in no way that the danger is over. In consequence of Finland's new borders our situation has, generally speaking, grown worse than it was before the Russo-Finnish conflict. The on-going war between great Powers contains huge risks to us. They have in no way disappeared. It is an urgent necessity that we do our utmost to strengthen our ability to meet whatever lies ahead. Finland stands here as a prime example. If we can be united by the same unanimity and unyielding resistance against all aggressors as the people of Finland did, and that is what we can if we will, so we can look forward to the future with confidence.
Source: Svensk utrikespolitik under andra världskriget. Internationell politik 24, skrifter utgivna av Utrikespolitiska institutet, Kooperativa förbundets bokförlag, Stockholm, 1946. (Swedish Foreign Policy under the Second World War, Stockholm, 1946). Translation: Pauli Kruhse
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