The Northern Flank D+3 (12 July, 1987) Part II


Soviet ambassador to Finland Vladimir Sobolev had hoped to conduct the meeting with Finnish President Mauno Koivisto earlier in the morning. The Finns had been insistent on 10 AM, however. Reluctantly, Sobolev conceded the matter with Moscow’s blessing. He arrived at the Presidential Palace and was escorted to Koivisto’s office, still uncertain what the end result of this meeting would be. The current Finnish president’s powers were diminishing in the wake of reforms initiated in large part, ironically enough, by him. The shadow of Urho Kekkonen’s authoritarian reign still hung over his predecessor Koivitso and the office of the presidency. As Kekkonen’s successor, Koivisto had initially adopted a similar policy in regards to the Soviet Union. At the same time, the Finn was fostering closer relations with many leaders in the West. He had also been known as a staunch supporter of Mikhail Gorbachev and his reforms in the time before the coup.  To Romanov, and many of his advisers, Koivisto appeared to be the typical opportunistic politician that only needed to be shown that aiding the Soviet Union was in the best interests of him and his country.

The ambassador laid out his government’s request and the reasoning behind it. The Soviet Union was currently involved in a war for its very survival. To prevent NATO from taking direct military action against the homeland, Soviet troops were entering Norway in large numbers to establish a buffer zone. In order to facilitate the movement of forces onto Norwegian soil, Moscow was requesting permission for its troops to move across northern Finland without interference from Finnish forces deployed in the region. Sobolev assured Koivisto that the timeframe for the movement of troops and equipment would last no longer than seven to ten days. In return for Finland’s cooperation, the ambassador hinted at the possibility of captured Norwegian territory being ceded to Finland at the conflict’s end.

The Finnish president did not hesitate in turning down the request. Finland, Koivisto explained simply, had declared its neutrality in the conflict, and would remain so for the duration. Finland’s armed forces would regard any incursion of its soil by either side to be a hostile act. Sobolev was not entirely surprised by the president’s response. He tried again, placing emphasis on the peaceful and cooperative relationship which their two countries enjoyed since the end of World War II. The ambassador tactfully reminded Koivisto that Finland had been the recipient of Soviet patience, and benevolence in that time period. Now it was time to repay that debt.

Koivisto was unmoved and reiterated what the official Finnish position was. The meeting ended on that note. Sobolev returned to the embassy and contacted Moscow, giving a detailed recount of the meeting, along with his own opinion that the Finns likely could not be persuaded to change their position.

As Romanov and his advisers debated whether or not to order Soviet forces to violate Finnish soil and establish a transit corridor across northern Finland, Northwestern TVD was ordered to maintain the advance down the coastal route for the time being.

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