On Tuesday, 8 November 2016, Americans will pick the 45th president of the United States. Their choice will have an impact not only on America, but the rest of the world. What would a Donald Trump victory mean for Finland?
It’s no secret Finns aren’t Trump fans. According to a recent poll 86 per cent of Finns favoured Hillary Clinton while only 7 per cent wanted a President Trump.
A Trump victory is definitely possible. Nate Silver’s Fivethirtyeight website currently predicts he has about a 36 per cent chance of winning. National polls give Clinton a 3 per cent lead, but I strongly suspect that Trump will perform better than expected. Polls are biased against him, just like what happened with the Brexit vote. Finns might be dismayed at the prospect of a Trump presidency, but there could be some benefits for us.
One possibility is a closing of the American economy. Trump has repeatedly followed isolationist rhetoric and called for the raising of trade barriers. If America begins to close its economy off to foreign companies, other countries will definitely retaliate and this could give us an opening.
America isn’t particularly important to the Finnish economy, at least directly. The US isn’t a top trading partner and it is neither a major source of capital nor a destination for new Finnish investments. It would definitely hurt some of Finland’s digital consumer companies, like mobile gaming, because America is a major market.
Other industrials could take advantage of decreased American competition around the world. Our forestry companies could help fill the void in Canada and South America. KONE would love for Otis Elevator to be kicked out of China, and Nokia’s return to mobile phones would get a massive boost if Apple was out of the global picture.
Overall, though, the benefits of a closing of the American economy under President Trump would be negligible. It would undoubtedly cause a global recession and Finland would not be immune. The downsides would outweigh any benefits which specific companies or industries would enjoy.
A more serious problem for Finland is global security. Donald Trump is curiously friendly with Vladimir Putin, which has caused more than a few shivers among Finnish policy makers. Only 10 per cent of Russians prefer Hillary Clinton to win, which tells us something. Perhaps Russia wants a weak president, or they want a compliant one. I suspect President Trump would be both.
Trump has hinted that he wants to pull back America’s military overseas presence and may not fulfil America’s NATO obligations. This does not directly impact Finland, because we aren’t a part of NATO and have never been under American military protection. But many of our neighbours are. Russia might feel it has a free hand to move against the Baltic states or against Norway in the Arctic, neither of which would benefit Finland’s security and independence.
We could also be directly threatened. Not fearing any American reprisal, Russia could put more pressure on Finland and restart the old manipulations of the Cold War era. Finland has managed to firmly position itself in the West over the past few decades, but a disintegrating EU and a withdrawing America could leave us in the Russian sphere of influence. We may not be reduced to a Grand Duchy again, but a period of Finlandisation II could be in store for us.
All of this remains speculative and hypothetical. Trump might not win, and if he does he might not follow through on his isolationist promises. Even if he tries to keep his campaign promises he might not succeed, because he doesn’t even have the backing of his own political party in Congress.
Despite all this, a Trump presidency remains a real possibility and his policies a real threat. It wasn’t too long ago that the idea of the UK leaving the EU or Russia seizing Crimea would have been considered impossible. The world has entered a new era of instability. Finns have good reason to be watching the American election closely.