Publication: Survival: Global Politics and Strategy
21 March 2016
Politics and International Relations
The Mediator: A Biography of Martti Ahtisaari
Katri Merikallio and Tapani Ruokanen. London: C. Hurst & Co., 2015. £25.00. 420 pp.
Martti Ahtisaari was born in 1937 in Viipuri, or Vyborg, a town on the Karelian isthmus which Finland had to cede to the Soviet Union as a result of the 1939–40 Winter War. From a relatively modest family background, he was trained as a primary-school teacher. His first exposure to international affairs came through development aid: in 1960 he went to Karachi to run a physical-education training centre, and in 1965 he joined the development-aid bureau of the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. He later served as Finnish ambassador to Tanzania, and eventually became a UN diplomat, serving as the commissioner for Namibia, a position he held until the country achieved its independence. He also served as UN under-secretary for management.
Elected president of Finland in 1994, he participated, along with Russian premier Viktor Chernomyrdin, in the mediation with Slobodan Milosevic which put an end to the war in Kosovo in 1999. Following his term as president, he continued to take part in diplomatic missions, the most important of which was the negotiation of peace terms between Indonesia and insurgents in that country’s Aceh region. A second round of negotiations on Kosovo failed to produce an agreement with either Moscow or Belgrade on the independence of the country, but detailed arrangements aimed at turning it into a stable, multi-ethnic democracy. (The independence of Kosovo has since been widely acknowledged, though it is still opposed in principle by many countries.) In recognition of his long career as a peacemaker, which continues to this day, Ahtisaari was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize