Helsinki Times
Charly Salonius-Pasternak

AMERICANS went
to the election booth Tuesday to vote for a new president. As was widely
expected, Senator Barack Obama
of Illinois was elected to replace George W. Bush.
The victory of the charismatic young man is sure to delight many in Finland.
Opinion polls showed that Obama was heavily favoured by Finns over Arizona
Senator John McCain.

Now the eyes of Finland will be on
Obama to see what changes he will bring to the superpower. It is difficult to
judge how Obama will act as president because he has such a short history in
politics. Although campaign rhetoric is often suspect, in Obama’s case his
campaign speeches are one of the few ways experts can predict how he will act
as chief executive of the US.

One of the issues that have irked Finns
in recent years is America’s unilateral actions, especially its use of force in
Iraq. Obama has generally proposed a number of plans favoured by Finns,
including more action on climate change and changing US policy regarding Iraq
and the detention of prisoners.

Obama has generally promised closer
cooperation with other nations in diplomatic activities and to only use force
as a last resort. He has also promised to work closely with Europe in regards
to Russia, one of the prime concerns of Finnish foreign policy.

Charly Salonius-Pasternak,
a researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, advises people
who desire change to be prepared to wait. It takes time to change policy
positions, and he points out that Obama may be limited by agreements signed by
George W. Bush.

Salonius-Pasternak explains: “For
example, for those who think Guantanamo is important, even after it is
announced that it will be closed it will still take time to actually do it. For
those who want to see the US withdraw from Iraq, that too will happen, but at
its own time. Finns are not unique in hoping for great change, but everyone
needs to be patient.”

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