The U.S. Information Service alone listed some 38 separate programs in honor of the “Year of Friendship.” The agenda included an all-star program at the prestigious Finlandia Hall featuring a video address to the audience (and a national TV audience) by President Ronald Reagan on the importance of the relationship between Finland and the United States over the 350 years since the first Finn set foot in the New World. The event also kicked off a five-year $5 million dollar fund-raising campaign to increase the number of Fulbright grantees between Finland and the U.S. The “Year of Friendship” culminated in a visit to Finland by President Reagan, the first-ever by a sitting U.S. president.
Among the benefits of this elaborate program in cooperation with the Finnish Government was an increased favorability rating for the U.S. as a nation and for specific U.S. foreign policies as measured by public opinion polls. The high level of favorability proved to be important as Finland assumed the Presidency of the Security Council just prior to the Gulf War, and Finland played an important and positive role, which supported U.S. positions. Shortly thereafter Finland bought their first-ever U.S. military aircraft when a contract was awarded for the F-16. This era of good feeling between the U.S. and Finland continued as the Baltic States gained their freedom from the USSR and the Soviet Union itself disintegrated shortly thereafter.