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Home > Special Topics > Europe Report Last Updated: 15:16 03/09/2007
Europe Report #76: March 24, 2004

Iraq Anniversary in Europe Part Three: Iraq War changed the Finnish Government

J. Sean Curtin (Fellow, GLOCOM)

The Iraq war has affected every corner of Europe, even remote Finland in the far North. Last March, Finland's general election was widely believed to have been decided by the Iraq war. The then prime minister, Paavo Lipponen, gave his backing to President Bush's pre-emptive Iraq war. The opposition Center Party accused Lipponen of undermining Finnish neutrality by promising Bush support. As Finnish public opinion was overwhelmingly against the war, this strategy helped the Center Party secure a narrow win over Lipponen's Social Democrats.

Marko Tolonen, a resident of Helsinki, said, "Many people in Europe say it's Bush one, al-Qaeda one, meaning that Bush got rid of Saddam and al-Qaeda got rid of [former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria] Aznar. Here in Finland we see it as Bush one, al-Qaeda two. If it wasn't for the Iraq war, the Finnish Social Democrats would not have lost last year's election."

Mr. Tolonen added, "Many Finnish people think that a whole year has been wasted in a futile military campaign in Iraq. While Saddam Hussein was a bad man, he had nothing to do with al-Qaeda and international terrorism. After September 11, most of the al-Qaeda terrorists were trapped in Afghanistan, but instead of hunting them down, Bush went to war in Iraq. This allowed many of the al-Qaeda people to escape and some of them now seem to be in Iraq. The Iraq war has not made the world a safer place and because of it the terrorists are stronger than ever."

One year after the launch of the Iraq war, Europe still finds itself dealing with the political fallout. Opinion polls across the continent clearly show that the vast majority of people did not support military intervention. The recent increased threat of terrorism is causing serious problems for pro-Bush political leaders due to the immense unpopularity of both the Iraq conflict and President Bush. If the White House does not tread carefully, it could risk unseating its few remaining supporters. In Europe, the Iraq war has inflicted seriously damage on the continent's relations with Washington and hindered the creation of the unity necessary to effectively fight international terrorism. These are serious issues President Bush must address, if he realistically intends to tackle international terrorism.

Iraq Anniversary in Europe Part One: Iraq War has Little Support in Europe

Iraq Anniversary in Europe Part Two: UK divided over Iraq War

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