Note Crisis

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The Note Crisis (Finnish : noottikriisi, Swedish : notkrisen) was a political crisis in Soviet–Finnish relations in 1961. The Soviet Union sent Finland a diplomatic note on October 30, 1961, referring to the threat of war and West German militarization and proposing that Finland and the Soviet Union begin consultations on securing the defence of both countries, as provided for in the Finno-Soviet Treaty of 1948. The note coincided with the detonation of the Tsar Bomba, the most powerful nuclear test in history, and followed close on the heels of the Berlin Crisis and Bay of Pigs Invasion.

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The note precipitated a crisis in Finland: activating the military provisions of the treaty would have frustrated Finland's post-war policy of neutrality in international affairs and greatly damaged Finland's relations with the West. One of the crucial goals of Finnish foreign policy was to reinforce the credibility of Finland's neutrality in the eyes of Western powers which were skeptical of the country's ability to resist Soviet influence.

At the time the note was sent, president Urho Kekkonen was in the Hawaiian Islands on vacation, during his successful visit to the United States and Canada. The proposed consultations threatened the achievements of the previous decade, during which Finland had attained UN membership and the Soviets had vacated the Porkkala military base near Helsinki, leased to them in 1944 for fifty years. At worst, the note was seen as the possible first step towards establishing a Soviet military presence in Finland, and even further, the de facto end of Finnish independence.

President Kekkonen handled the matter by arranging a personal meeting with Nikita Khrushchev in Novosibirsk. As a result of the meeting, the Soviet Union agreed to "postpone" the consultations indefinitely, charging the Finns with monitoring the security situation in Northern Europe. The Finnish interpretation of the agreement was that the Soviets thereby left the matter of initiating military consultations to Finnish discretion, and the crisis was defused.

The most common view today is that the Soviet Union was mainly motivated by a desire to ensure Kekkonen's re-election in 1962. Kekkonen, who enjoyed the confidence of the Soviet leadership, was seeking re-election for the first time, and his main opponent, Olavi Honka  [ fi ], was regarded as having a good chance of victory with the backing of a six-party coalition, including two major parties, the Social Democrats and the National Coalition. The extent to which Kekkonen may himself have been involved in orchestrating the incident is disputed, but it is commonly accepted that he was expecting a Soviet intervention in the presidential election, and Kekkonen is known to have planned dissolving the Finnish parliament, forcing his opponents to campaign together in the Presidential election and against each other in the parliamentary election at the same time.

As a result of the crisis, Honka dropped his candidacy in November 1961, and in January 1962, Kekkonen was re-elected by an overwhelming vote of 199 out of 300 electoral college votes. During his second term in office, the Social Democrats were reconciled with Kekkonen's Agrarian League, leading to a new era in Finnish internal politics dominated by this so-called "red earth" alliance.

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