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Aleksanteri Conference







Jensen-Eriksen, Niklas

CoCom and Neutrality: Western export control policies, Finland and the Cold War, 1949–1958

The paper examines the US’ and British efforts to ensure that the non-communist neutral and small European countries would not become loopholes that would undermine Western export control policies towards the Eastern bloc. In particular, we will focus on the case of Finland, which had an important role in the East-West trade. At times during the 1950s and 1960s, small Finland was in fact Soviet Union’s most important non-communist trading partner. Although Finland was strictly neutral, previously classified documents indicate that it and many other neutral countries were gradually partly incorporated into the Western embargo system. Yet, this did not stop many of them from becoming mediators in the economic Cold War. As Finland was not formally a member of the CoCom, it could and did continue to export to the Soviet Union many items which the members of the Western alliance had placed on their export control lists. In fact, the neutral countries actually benefited from the Cold War: while the overall East-West trade declined, this opened up profitable trading opportunities for their companies. Yet, the Finnish case also illustrates that there were limits to how much the trade between communist and capitalist countries could grow. The Soviets were able to sell to Finland energy and raw materials, but were mostly unable to produce manufactured goods that would be competitive in a capitalist market place, where customers could freely choose their supplier. When the Finnish imports of manufactured goods were liberalised during the late 1950s and 1960s, the uncompetiveness of Soviet industrial goods became clearly evident, and the Soviet share of total Finnish foreign trade began to decline. The paper will be based on US, British and Finnish government records, documents produced by the CoCom secretariat and distributed to the members of the organisation, and on published works.

Friday 30 Oct 16.15-18.15 SESSION 6
Panel: Fueling Change: Europe and Cold War Trade Blocs