Thursday, December 21, 2006

God bless America. No other state extended so much secretive humanitarian and industrial aid to Finland.

Top of the morning gents,

Not sure if any of you graying gunslingers give a shit
about American International Foreign Policy, but this
ought to refresh your faith in our pursuits abroad.

Imagine if the Vikings were crushed by the Soviet Union, the world's telecommunications radical advances
would've NEVER occurred.

Apple introduced the GUI-graphical user interface. The
modern computer desktop display we use today.

Microsoft streamlined the world's computer disk
operation systems-DOS.

Siemens, Sonera and Nokia took a primitive Internet
and revolutionized the shit out of it leading the
world's telecommunications industry-communications
between cell phones, computers and servers.

In Scandinavia, you won't find any twisted pair copper
phone lines, nor cable TV, DSL, nor modems: everything
is wireless, hand held and FAST. Here in Kotzebue I
can download at 64K on the fastest DSL link up. Late
at night I'll watch Russian TV at 128K at best. In
Helsinki I fetched 1 Gig per second transfer rates-no
shit. All wireless, no cable, no phone modems, no DSL,
just wireless broadband speeds we have a decade to

Comparing our Internet service to Helsinki is like
comparing Galena to Barrow.

Had America pussed out and not extended aid to
Finland, Scandinavia would likely be in the same
industrially primitive shape as Latvia, Lithuania and
Estonia. Three Baltic countries called the NIS-Newly
Independent States that only recently regained freedom
from the Soviet Union.

If you want to see some surreal and ancient cityscapes
in the Baltics check out or rent the DVD movie
produced by Quentin Tarantino-Hostel.

This revealing movie is just as bizarre and intriguing
as Tarantino's movies you may have seen before.

*Killing Zoe
*Pulp Fiction
*Reservoir Dogs

No shit, Hostel is a fucking gnarly flick depicting
striking similarities to black sites of extreme
detention: NOT for any innocent souls and some of you
may not finish the movie.

The rest of you graying gun-slinging butchers will
likely sprout some serious 6Killer sized wood.

Aivar Kahar.


Hidden help from across the Atlantic
US Army Surplus purchases were a kind of back-door
Marshall Aid

By Unto Hämäläinen

The old carbon-copy flimsies are so fragile that they
must be handled with great care. One can just about
make out from the faded printed texts that the pages
are customs declarations on imported goods, made by
Finnish officials towards the end of the 1940s.

The first such declarations date from early 1946, and
the last are from the summer of 1949.

There are hundreds of pages of them.

The temptation is great to touch them and rummage
through them and to hold them up to the light to peer
at what is written there.

Up at the top left is a space for the name of the
vessel bringing the goods, like Fennia or Kurikka, and
the date when she docked.

The customs official has also noted down where the
consignment originated from on its journey to Finland.
The port of departure in the United States was often
New York, NY, but items have been loaded on board
frequently from European ports, most prominently
Antwerp and Rotterdam.

The papers also reveal that Finland has imported from
the United States such items as locomotives, graders
for building roads, tractors, food, and - what on
earth is this: several DC-3 aircraft (the trusty
Dakota or Skytrain), with a full complement of spare

Nearly every week, for several years on end, a ship
docked in the harbours of Helsinki, Hanko, Turku, or
Rauma with American goods in the cargo hold.

This was different from the American post-war
humanitarian aid packages. This flow of goods across
the Atlantic was not extensively written up in the
Finnish press of the time - and nor was it much spoken

As a rule, customs declarations found their way to the
incinerator after being stored for eight years. It is
the purest coincidence that these carbon-copy sheets
have survived to this day.

The papers have been stuffed away for decades in a
cupboard in the National Board of Customs archives.
They were unearthed only last summer, when customs
chief inspector Janne Nokki set about putting the
archives into the sort of shape that would allow for
some of the older documents to be handed on to the
National Archives.

It is fortunate that Nokki just happened to be a
history scholar by education. He was not content with
simply cataloguing the documents - he actually sat
down and started reading them. What he saw was an
eyebrow-raising experience.

"I had heard that after the war Finland imported a
certain amount of US Army Surplus stuff, but I didn't
have the first idea of the scale of it", recalls

It is hardly surprising that the subject was new for
35-year-old Nokki. The history of the immediate
post-war period has been much researched, but
surprisingly little mention can be found from the
literature about war surplus sales from the United States to Finland.

All the same, the consensus is that without Western
help Finland would not have been able to cope in the
years just after the war. Economic historian Erkki
Pihkala has estimated that the assistance coming from
the West in the years from 1945 to 1948 was roughly
equivalent to one year's deliveries of war reparations
to the Soviet Union.

Relations between Finland and the United States were
pretty much at the zero level at the end of World War
II. In the summer of 1944, the US had formally cut off
all diplomatic ties to Finland after President Risto
Ryti had given a personal guarantee to the Nazis that
Finland would not seek a separate peace under his

It was a year and more before the United States agreed
to re-open diplomatic channels with Helsinki in the
fall of 1945. By that time Finland was in dire

Already battered by the war, the country was saddled
with massive war reparations to be paid to the Soviet Union. The Soviets led the Allied Control Commission,
which watched carefully to see that the terms of the
Moscow Armistice of September 1944 were fulfilled to
the letter and to the last consignment of goods.

In 1945, as much as 70 per cent of Finnish production
went in payment of war reparations. In panic, the
Finns requested help from the United States.

The initial response was blunt: Finland was a lost
cause. From the viewpoint of Washington the Finnish
position looked quite hopeless, and the only open
question was when the Soviets would swallow the place

A State Department diplomat who was responsible for
U.S.-Finnish affairs, one Randolph Higgs, went further
and asked briskly what right the Finns thought they
had to assume that American policy would be to throw
good money after bad into a Finnish rat-hole.

For years, the State Department in Washington
maintained a very restrained stance. The Americans
certainly hoped that Finland would remain in the
Western camp, but they had little confidence in these
hopes. The fragile Finnish independence was not
expected to withstand the pressures from Moscow.

Professor Jussi Hanhimäki, who has written of this
period, condenses the immediate post-war American line
as follows:

"The United States had to refrain from any and all
public statements on the Finnish position, lest the
Soviet Union might interpret them as a challenge to
the policies it was pursuing in Finland. At the same
time, the U.S. nevertheless recognised a need to help
Finland invisibly, in other words in economic terms."

The selling of war surplus items to Finland fitted in
admirably with this "invisible" approach. And it made
sound financial sense.

After the war, the U.S. had a good deal of equipment
and materials in the European theatre that were really
not worth shipping all the way back over the Atlantic.
On the other hand, it was worthwhile to sell them on
to countries in Europe, if buyers could be found.

The trade was financed by loans from American banks.
The banks issued credits to Finland for the items they
bought. Even though this was normal business practice
on the surface, it could also be described as
assistance. The items were cheap and the terms of
payment were quite reasonable.

The goods were supplied by the Office of the Foreign
Liquidation Commissioner within the Department of
State, and the goods were brought in in small

The imports did not attract much attention, which was
basically just the way everyone wanted it to be. The
Soviets knew about the import shipments, but it is
unclear whether they grasped the scale and importance
of the trade.

The forwarding of the various items was also carried
out without any undue ceremony. The then Ministry of
Supply passed the goods on to industry, to state
authorities, the municipalities, and to the big
wholesale and retail trading houses. The then big four
of SOK, OTK, Kesko, and Tuko each got their own quota
of items that they could pass on to consumers.

The customs officials granted the items relief from
any import duties for six-month periods from the date
of their arrival.

Just to do things by the book, customs declarations
were made on all items, even though no duty was

It is a good thing the bureaucracy was up to its task
- even if it was wasted work - because without these
carbon-copies of the import declarations we would no
longer have any way of clarifying the nature of the
American assistance.

Just how big a helping hand was it? Janne Nokki has
done some crude sums and has come up with a summary of
the liquidated surplus goods acquired. The figures are

For example, around 2,000 trucks were brought to
Finland, and a further 550 Jeeps and other cars,
around 3,000 trailers, and 1,400 tons of vehicle spare

This must have been a massive shot in the arm, since
statistics show that after the war Finland only had
around 17,000 vehicles on the road.

The largest part of the imports was made up of steel,
iron, machinery, and motors badly needed by industry.
For instance around 900 tons of welding equipment
alone was imported.

The welding apparatus was more than welcome, since the
Soviet Union's reparation demands called for all kinds
of metals industry products that the Finns did not
have, and which they had to manufacture.

Finland had also had to surrender to the Soviets much
of its transport hardware, such as vessels and
locomotives. Fortunately the US surplus items included
24 locomotives, more than a dozen ships, and -
astonishingly - even nine aircraft.

Immediately after the war, Finland also received a
good deal of medicines, foodstuffs, and clothing.
Among the latter category were 200,000 pairs of
gauntlets for use in industry.

The items in question were from the Western front in
Europe, and had been used in the defeat of Finland's
erstwhile co-belligerent Germany.

Janne Nokki has estimated that the aggregate value of
the surplus items brought in to Finland would run into
the several billions of old markka - measured in the
money of that time.

Making any accurate calculations is difficult because
of adjustments in exchange rates and the change in the
value of money between then and now. It would require
some comprehensive research.

What, then, is the significance of this chance
discovery in the archives?

"The customs clearance documents indicate that a
considerable part of the aid to Finland and the
purchases of US surplus goods was intended to help
bottlenecks in Finnish industry and transport. In this
sense this was not so much humanitarian aid as
investment goods and material for the reconstruction
of Finnish industry", is the assessment of Juhana
Aunesluoma, who has researched Finnish-American
relations at the University of Helsinki.

It was in Washington's interests that Finland remained
a capitalist country, even if the Americans were
rather sceptical that some of the items they were
selling to the Finns might end up helping the Soviet Union instead.

Janne Nokki points to the fact that the cargo ships
kept coming on a more or less regular basis, even
though Finland's position on the superpower chessboard
changed several times during the same period.

Nokki is also more than a little bemused at the fact
that whilst the Soviet side kept a very close watch on
practically everything else, they did not intervene in
the import of American war surplus materials.

These imports in all quiet went some way to making up
for the fact that Finland was unable to avail itself
of more visible forms of post-war aid. In the summer
of 1947, Finland - as the only Western country in this
position - was obliged to refuse the Marshall Aid
offered by the U.S. for the reconstruction of
war-ravaged Europe.

The Kremlin insisted that Finland turn down the offer.
In the West, this was seen as the beginning of the end
for the Finns: pundits speculated over when the final
Soviet blow would fall.

At the beginning of the following year, Josef Stalin
proposed the signing of the Finnish-Soviet Agreement
of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance (the
so-called YYA Treaty that was to last as the basis of
Finnish-Soviet relations until 1992).

On April 6th, 1948 the agreement was duly signed. In
the United States and elsewhere in the West the event
was regarded - yet again - as an unmistakable signal
of Finland's slipping into the grip of the Soviet Union.

What is doubly curious, then, is that the customs
declarations found by Nokki indicate that Western
fears of Finland "going under for the third time" seem
to have had little or no impact on the trade dealings.

The shipments kept on coming in a steady flow,
regardless of political developments. They were a
fragile lifeline for a very poor country.

The aid continued to come after 1949, but the only
customs dockets that have survived appear to be from
these three or four years.

A few examples will have to suffice: in April 1948
aircraft were flown to Finland from the American Zone
in Allied-occupied Germany; in May the S/S Clio
brought a highway grader and four aircraft engines,
and in the early summer the fishing vessel S/S Volker
was towed into Helsinki by a tug.

The customs official on duty conscientiously
acknowledged the arrival of the items, wrote out a
customs declaration, calculated the duty that was
never to be levied, and filed the dockets away in the

And that is where they remained, forgotten, for nearly
sixty years.


Surplus goods supplied to Finland by the US Office of
the Foreign Liquidation Commissioner, 1946-1949

Foodstuffs and raw materials for the foodstuffs
industry 2,700 tons.

Various machines 2,000 tons.

Locomotives and locomotive parts 1,200 tons.

Steel, Iron (steelplate, pipes, bars, ingots, steel
wire) 8,500 tons.

Vehicle spare parts 1,400 tons.

Welding equipment 900 tons.

Clothing, textiles, bedlinen 3,000 tons.

Rope 1,200 tons.

Cranes 1,000 tons.

Various motors 700 tons.

Aluminium and aluminium items 400 tons.

Tools, machine tools 400 tons.

Trailers 3,000.

Tents and ancillary supplies 200 tons.

Paint, varnish, and dyestuffs 100 tons.

Tractors 200.

Various electrical items, power transformers, cables,
resistors 200 tons.

Trucks, tanker trucks, ambulances 2,000.

Jeeps and other passenger vehicles 550.

Aircraft 9.

Ships (tugs, minesweepers, etc.) 15.


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