Minding the Western opinion - wise or not?

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Mikko H.
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Minding the Western opinion - wise or not?

Post by Mikko H. » 28 Nov 2005 19:19

As is well known, Finland went to considerable lenghts to remain in good terms with the Western Allies, especially the USA, during the Continuation War. The most dramatic example is the staying of Maj. Gen. Hjalmar Siilasvuo's III Army Corps in November 1941 when it seemed to have a good opportunity of cutting the Murmansk railway. And when Finnish generals formulated further such plans in 1942, Mannerheim -- with Ryti's support -- vetoed them.

Was this wise policy? In other words Finland was not trying to harm the enemy to the fullest extent because she was wary of US opinion. Supplies continued to flow freely from Murmansk to reinforce the Soviet forces against Germany and Finland. How did this policy benefit Finland? Did it benefit Finland?

The following points are worth consideration:

- Bulgaria prosecuted a similarly restrained war, but still ended under Soviet occupation.
- Finland had to make her peace alone with the Sovet Union, without the UK or USA having much say (were they even interested in having a say?) -- however, I remember reading that the British persuaded the Soviets to lower the amount of reparations to 300 million USD in September 1944, is this true?
- In the post-war world the Western powers didn't much mind how a nation had behaved during the war -- what mattered was the nation's attitude to the USSR now.

Lt. Gen. Aksel Airo's later opinion was that, had the USA declared war on Finland, "then there would have been one peace-maker more". How would have a US declaration of war affected Finland? Would it have hindered making a tolerable peace in 1944?

OTOH, if such restraint didn't benefit Finland, did it really harm us?

Of course, to certain extent posing such questions is possible only with the benefit of hind-sight. At the time it wasn't all that clear how the war would end, and in such situation it's IMO pure statesmancraft to hedge one's bets, burn no bridges.

What are your opinions?

carolwmahs
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US Opinion

Post by carolwmahs » 28 Nov 2005 19:40

I don't think Finland's attempt to stay on the good side of the US made any difference. In retrospct, I think Finland should have driven for Murmansk. Perhaps that would have angered the US, but they weren't in any position to do anything about it. Currying favor with the US didn't do much to mitigate Finland's surrender terms since Stalin repeatedly ignored US opinion about anything within its sphere of influence. It was Finnish resistance that gave your country relatively good terms. Stalin only respected strength.

Murmansk's occupation would have put Finland in a better position against the USSR and perhaps would have even extended the war by a few years, prolonging the suffering of millions. But I thought casualties and Soviet resistance was also a factor. In contrast to other fronts, the Soviets fought well in the North in 1941.

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Post by Esa K » 28 Nov 2005 21:39

Mikko H. wrote:
I remember reading that the British persuaded the Soviets to lower the amount of reparations to 300 million USD in September 1944, is this true?


Thats what I also remember, but dont where I read it, that SU first wanted, was it, the double amount, but the British wanted the sum to be something Finland really could pay to prohibit SU to using it as an argument for a total overtake of Finland. On the other side, the arms limitations Finland had to accept was a British iniative.


regards

Esa K

Mikko H.
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Post by Mikko H. » 29 Nov 2005 18:25

Another example how the Finns were ready to accommodate the Americans is the story how majuri Max von Hellens' death penalty was postponed so that the man survived to be released after the Continuation War.

Early in the Continuation War in 1941 Finnish Supreme HQ Intelligence Section began paying close attention to Major Max von Hellens, intelligence officer of the Finnish 11th Division then fighting against the Red Army in northern Karelia. Major von Hellens was well known for his pro-US sympathies (three of his close relatives were US citizens and worked in the US embassy in Helsinki) -- and von Hellens was also known to be anti-German. In the 1930's von Hellens had been Finns' unofficial liaison with the US intelligence base located in Riga, Latvia.

The reason Major von Hellens attracted the attention of Finnish counter-intelligence organs was that during his vacations von Hellens was meeting regularly with the US military attaché Colonel Georges Huthsteiner. It was suspected that von Hellens passed along information on Finnish and German forces. The suspicions were right. For example, when von Hellens and Huthsteiner met on 29 December 1941, Huthsteiner was told that the German 163rd Infanty Division (then subordinated to Finns in northern Karelia) was on eastern shore of Lake Ladoga, and that the German division had suffered losses and was demoralized and asking help from the Finnish 11th Division [*].

Huthsteiner and von Hellens didn't meet for the next time until June 1942. von Hellens told that Colonel Lars Melander, chief of Supreme HQ Intelligence Section, had warned him that von Hellens had been seen too often with Huthsteiner. At the end of that June von Hellens was transfered to become chief of quartering at the Olonets Group HQ. Despite the warnings, von Hellens and Huthsteiner met again in July 1942, and von Hellens handed over German Eastern Front OOB he had acquired from the 163rd Infantry Division's situation report. Finnish signals intelligence, which was reading US diplomatic codes, soon alerted Finnish counter-intelligence to what had happened. von Hellens was arrested on 26 September 1942. On 16 December 1942 he was condemned to death for treason. But because of American pressure execution was delayed and von Hellens survived to be freed when the Continuation War ended in September 1944.

[*] Because of the rather exceptional circumstances Finland fought her war, it was fully possible for a Finn to be at the same time pro-western, anti-German and anti-Soviet. I don't know whether this was the case with Major von Hellens, but I suspect this was so, given that he was an officer in the Finnish Defense Forces. In this light it is interesting to wonder whether those Finns who spied for the US and British, von Hellens included, realized that all the intelligence they passed to the Western Allies was promptly handed over to the Soviets. So, when von Hellens had this discussion on 29 December 1941, Huthsteiner sent the information immediately to Washington. On 1 January 1942 the US intelligence authorities passed von Hellens' information along to the Soviets, and on 5 January 1942, about a week after von Hellens and Huthstainer had had their meeting, this information reached the HQ of Karelian Front, which forces von Hellens' 11th Division was fighting against.

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Harri
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Post by Harri » 03 Dec 2005 14:13

Esa K wrote:Thats what I also remember, but dont where I read it, that SU first wanted, was it, the double amount, but the British wanted the sum to be something Finland really could pay to prohibit SU to using it as an argument for a total overtake of Finland. On the other side, the arms limitations Finland had to accept was a British iniative.


As far as I know at least certain weapon restrictions were British "invention". It has been said that doing so Britain ensured that Finland could not buy these wepons without their supervision and approval from USSR. And eventually when Finns negotiated of bying missiles at the beginning of the 1960's deliveries were eventually divided between USSR (SAM, A-to-A) and West (SAM training, AT) although some deliveries took place much later in the 1970's. Basically British ensured that Finland would buy also British weapons.

Also in case Finland would have become a real Soviet satellite or had to join Warsaw Pact it still had have these restrictions which would have benefited the West.

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