The demise of the Soviet Union almost a quarter of a century ago was all but bloodless; but with the current war in Ukraine, history has caught up with Russia. Empires do not implode without violence. The destruction brought to eastern Ukraine and the destabilization of the country have wider implications for Russia—implications that are more severe than the ongoing low-intensity conflict in the North Caucasus. Russia cannot prosper as an angry island, however large it may be.
Finland is the only one of Russia’s neighbors with which Moscow has had an unproblematic relationship over recent decades. That is a Finnish rather than a Russian achievement. Finland, as a neighbor of Russia and the country with which Russia shares its longest European border, is sensitive to all tremors caused by Moscow. And yet, over the decades, Finland has found a way to live with its often irascible neighbor. With a foreign policy based on a composed national narrative, rapprochement with the old foe, and skillful diplomacy, Helsinki’s level of ambition scores a solid 4 out of 5.