Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Eric Fleisher
FLEISHER: I think they thought about it, but the fact was that they weren't non-aligned. The Finns in their hearts were very much aligned. They showed it to us, American and western diplomats, very openly. I remember one time going down to the sauna with a Finnish Social Democratic Party leader. We were talking about Vietnam. He said, “Eric, why don't you go in and wring that chicken's neck quickly?”
Q: That wasn't what we were hearing all the time in Scandinavia.
What was the effect in Finland of the ouster of Khrushchev?
FLEISHER: That's a very interesting question. I was the first to report the overthrow of Khrushchev. A friend of mine the publisher of “Helsingin Sanomat,” the largest newspaper in Finland, called me one evening at home. He was really a friend of America. His father was also a long time friend of America. He called me and said, “Eric, I've got a present for you. This is absolutely real and I promise you on my life. Khrushchev has just been deposed. Call your people and tell them that.” I called Tyler and he said, “Well, this is yours. You call the Department.” My mistake was that I called the desk officer instead of calling the AS, or at least a DAS. But I didn't realize that at the time. I was going through what I knew to be the proper channels. I don't know how far it ever went - if it went up to the AS or to the Secretary.
Q: I didn't realize that you broke the news to Washington.
FLEISHER: I never even got a letter of thanks. I thought I'd be promoted. Tyler said, “You'll be promoted.” Anyway, yes, this had a big effect in Finland. It meant that there was fluidity that hadn't existed before. Everybody knew it. But how this was going to play out was the question. Kekkonnen knew it, too and he realized that he had to reaffirm his power.
Q: Right. He had been playing with Khrushchev.
FLEISHER: Yes. So things were pretty open and flexible. You weren't sure what was going to happen, what the political constellation was going to look like, and how it was going effect the Social Democrats.
Q: It must have affected the Finnish communists.