Gulf of Finland an increasingly important conduit to the West for Russia
Finland still pushing Northern Dimension project in EU
St. Petersburg is becoming an increasingly important city for Finland. Russia has at least five large energy projects at the eastern end of the Gulf of Finland.
Up to 100 million tonnes of oil will eventually pass through the oil terminal of Primorsk each year. Finland's foreign policy leadership failed to anticipate the rapid construction of the facility, and its massive size.
"The worst foreign policy mistake of recent history", says one source at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
A new nuclear reactor is to be built at Sosnovyi Bor, while a gas pipeline is to be built from near Vyborg to Germany. There are also plans for a terminal for liquefied gas.
All this is in addition to the proposal for a massive undersea electric cable from Russia to Finland.
According to the Foreign Ministry source, the Primorsk oil terminal was built "according to Soviet logic, or the logic of Peter the Great". St. Petersburg was built in the early 18th century at the command of Tsar Peter the Great, and has been a major factor in Finnish foreign policy since then.
Finland has sought to bring Russia and the European Union closer together. During the Finnish EU Presidency in the second half of this year Finland plans to raise the initiative of the Northern Dimension, which Paavo Lipponen first raised when he was Prime Minister in 1997. In Moscow the attitude toward the project was somewhat cool. Officials at the Russian Foreign Ministry suspected in 1998 that the aim of the project was purimarily to make it easier for the EU countries to exploit Russia's natural resources.
Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja (SDP) says that the concentration of Russian energy infrastructure at the eastern end of the Gulf of Finland is a cause for concern in maritime safety.
According to Tuomioja, environmental questions are among the key issues in determining the future of the Northern Dimension.
"Looking from a helicopter flying between Helsinki and Tallinn, it looks as if there were two motorways intersecting there. It is a small miracle that nothing has happened", Tuomioja says.
Tuomioja does not see the concentration of energy resources at the end of the Gulf of Finland as a problem in light of possible crisis situations. He says that it simply emphasises mutual dependence in all directions.
"If we say that Europe depends on Russian energy, then it also means that Russia is dependent on the European energy market", he points out.
We will have more on this subject in our weeklies section on Tuesday next week.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Russia to build new nuclear reactors on shore of Gulf of Finland (18.5.2006)