Recently, Russell Banks, one of the most famous American writer, known to often explore in his books American social dilemmas and moral struggles, has declared about Trump’s election “We are witnessing the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. We are at the end of the liberal democracy’s times, and at the beginning of oligarchs’ time. Post-Soviet Russia is probably giving us an idea of what we may expect, which explains Trump’s apparent enthusiasm for Putin […]”
It is a fact that Donald Trump is filling his cabinet with rich people. His nominees include more than five billionaires and six multimillionaires. This is what is known as oligarchy: direct control of the state by people with substantial private economic power. It means that they will be more interested in business deals than in a political vision of the world and its future.
So Finland has now to deal with two oligarchies, the US and Russia, that will have the capacity to make deals based mainly on business interests more than on traditional conceptions of international relations, historical links or balance of power. It means that we cannot know what to expect from these two countries, which brings some worries about Finland’s security or Finland’s future.
Finland has some experience with the Russian-based oligarchy. For example, Roman Rotenberg, a Finnish citizen who owns a hotel business called Langvik Capital Ltd is the son of Boris Rotenberg, a Russian business man and oligarch, co-owner (with his brother Arkady Rotenberg) of the SGM (Storygazmantazh) group, the largest construction company for gas pipelines and electrical power supply lines in Russia. He is also considered a close confidant of president Vladimir Putin. Another Finnish citizen, Kai Paananen is the managing director of a Finnish-based petrochemicals group, which operates also in Russia, and has close links with Russian billionaire Gennady Timchenko. These two gentlemen have been slapped with sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine by the US government.
But this does not give Finland any advantage, and it does not look like Finland has links with Trump’s appointee. The Finnish democracy may also have a view on ethics and democracy which may be a problem when dealing in the future with US and Russia. The only power able to counterbalance them could be the EU, which after all is the biggest market in the world: the European Union (plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland) accounted for 25.4% of world output in 2014 according to data from the International Monetary Fund. That was greater than America’s share (22.5%) and well in excess of China’s—13.4%. This is a good argument if we want to deal with two superpowers piloted by oligarchs, with the condition that the EU becomes also a political power and not an aggregate of dissenting states (a long way to go!).
One could argue that the oligarchs are also taking the power in Finland: after all, Juha Sipilä and Anne Berner are business people, and they seem to be using quite well their positions for the (economic) benefit of their inner circle. But, considering the reactions in Finland, including in their own party, it is not really sure that they will be able to continue for a very long time.