Simms: On the forthcoming Finnish peace parley (2-25-43)

The Pittsburgh Press (February 25, 1943)

Simms: Forthcoming Finnish peace parley may provide Atlantic Charter test

Will the country be given reasonable terms?
By William Philip Simms, Scripps-Howard staff writer

Washington –
The test of the grand alliance and the Atlantic Charter is at hand.

It can be said with considerable assurance that Finland is about ready to discuss peace terms with the Allies on a reasonable basis.

The only question seems to be: Will she be made a reasonable offer?

Next Monday, President Risto Ryti begins his second term. He will have a somewhat rejiggered cabinet. Foreign Minister Rolf J. Witting, who has been criticized as pro-Nazi, will almost certainly go. Perhaps also Premier Jukka W. Rangell. The net result will be a government more inclined toward the Allies and an early truce or peace. There are reports that peace feelers have already been received in Moscow.

Position clear

In any event, Finland’s position is already pretty clear. She has stated that the cardinal principle of her policy is that she is waging her own private war, the aim of which is solely to safeguard her security as a democratic state and her right to independence.

There is good reason to believe that if the United Nations will find a formula which will assure the new Ryti government that the Atlantic Charter means what it says and will apply it honestly in the case of Finland, peace with Russia and Great Britain is assured.

There are signs that Finland, for the sake of an honorable peace, might agree to certain frontier rectifications to the advantage of the Soviet Union. These would have to be limited, for the simple reason that Finland is so small, and her national economy is circumscribed, that too deep a cut in any direction would spell dismemberment and death. She is smaller than California, and her population is under four million.

Finland regains land

When Russia attacked Finland in November 1939, it was explained that Moscow feared some stronger power might use Finland as a base of attack against the Soviet Union. Presumably in line with this reasoning, the peace of March 1940 required Finland to cede some 16,000 square miles of territory, mostly in the area between Leningrad and Viipuri. This territory Finland has now regained, together with some advance bases in Russian Karelia.

But the relationship between Russia and Finland has now presumably undergone a drastic change. And the same should be true with regard to Russia and the whole of Eastern Europe. The Allied war aim is to smash Germany irretrievably and to keep her powerless to harm her neighbors from now on. Thus, whatever danger Russia may have felt from the direction of Finland – or from the three Baltic republics, or Poland – that fear will soon be a thing of the past.

No big obstacles

Peace with Finland, therefore, should present no insurmountable obstacles. The 3,863,753 Finns are hardly going to attack the 192,695,710 citizens of the Soviet Union. Nor are the 10 million Swedes and Norwegians, the six million Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians, nor all of them combined. Whether or not the plans of the Allies mature entirely as expected, once Germany and Japan are destroyed, gigantic Russia will have nothing to fear anywhere in the world.

In Washington and in London, Finland is regarded as being on a different plane from Germany’s other associates. She is one of Europe’s most liberal democracies. Her strongest political party is, ideologically, much like Britain’s Labor Party. Only this week, Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles publicly expressed the hope that she would soon withdraw from the war. But it is hardly that simple. It takes only one country to make a war but two to make peace.

If Finland were offered a peace based on the Atlantic Charter, not to mention the Four Freedoms, I am convinced she would not turn it down.