‘Finlandization’ Or Philippinedization’ For Ukraine ?
French President Emmanuel Macron suggested that Finlandization — meaning a Finnish-style Cold War neutrality — might be a realistic outcome for Ukraine, if and when Russian President Vladimir Putin’s terrorizing war ends. Macron later denied using the word, which has become a dirty word— especially, in Finland, War amid rising tension in early February, and which had been floated earlier in 2014, the year Russian annexed Crimea and fighting broke out in, Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
‘Finlandization’ refers to the policy of strict neutrality between Moscow and the West that Finland followed during the decades of the Cold War. The principal of neutrality was rooted in the Agreement of Friendship, cooperation, and Mutual Assistance (or YYA Treaty, from the Finnish “Ystävyys-, yhteistyö- ja avunantosopimus”) clear that Finland signed with the USSR in April 1948.
However, based on the current situation in Eastern Europe, the obsolete Finlandization model does not seem adequate to explain the events taking place and the potential way forward based on the Ukranians’ perspective. It remains to be seen whether Kyiv might militarily resist Moscow and claim political victory or otherwise. But the current spectacle deserves analytical merit that may disentangle itself from a geopolitical dilemma in the future. That is, Ukraine is currently in the loop of “Philippinedization.”
Philippinedization is defined as “the process whereby a weaker state, backed by a powerful country, goes through great lengths in temporarily refraining from opposing a neighboring great power by resorting to economic and diplomatic rapprochements at the strategic level, but strengthening its national security infrastructure on the operational level, with an eye for potential conflict in the foreseeable future. It broadens the multiplexity of the process that explains the depths of cultural factors affecting the broad brush of economics and politics, but by strengthening and diversifying the internal capacity and external networks to eventually escape from its current geopolitical dilemma given the probability of conflict in the future.”
The Philippinedization model represents Ukraine’s journey throughout their independence in the 1990s to consolidate its diplomatic, political-economic, and military position in Eastern Europe, while proactively engaging with NATO and maintaining cautious relations with its giant neighbor Russia. While Philippinedization is an evolving process and not a static concept of neutrality like Finlandization, the new framework explains how Ukraine’s engagements throughout the post-Cold War era were done with an eye for potential conflict in the future.
While negotiations are ongoing between the parties involved, it is likely that a rigid Finlandization-like outcome may not be an acceptable position from the Ukranians at least. It can be noted that after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and supported separatist insurgencies in the Donbas region, things were never the same for Ukraine. Kyiv’s government under former President Petro Poroshenko made application for NATO membership and defense budget increase a policy priority, all while engaging Russia to drop support for the pro-Russian separatists. These efforts serve as a historical precedent to Zelenskiy.
It is uncertain whether the gambles of war would favour the bold. What is clear now, however, is that despite Zelensky’s frustration over NATO’s perceived tactical constraints to avoid a possible world war with Russia, Kyiv has no choice but to fight alone for now and be supported at the back by its mighty NATO, that seemed to have woke from institutional slumber due to the absence of a clear and present Russian threat to the rules-based international order.