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Geopolitics

How Blocking Sweden's NATO Bid Plays Right Into Erdogan's Election Campaign

Turkey's objections to Swedish membership of NATO may mean that Finland joins first. But as he approaches his highly contested reelection bid at home, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is ready to use the issue to his advantage.

-Analysis-

PARIS — This story has all the key elements of our age: the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, the excessive ambitions of an autocrat, the opportunism of a right-wing demagogue, Islamophobia... And at the end, a country, Sweden, whose NATO membership, which should have been only a formality, has been blocked.

Last spring, under the shock of the invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin's Russia, Sweden and Finland, two neutral countries in northern Europe, decided to apply for membership in NATO. For Sweden, this is a major turning point: the kingdom’s neutrality had lasted more than 150 years.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised objections. It demanded that Sweden stop sheltering Kurdish opponents in its country. This has nothing to do with NATO or Ukraine, but everything to do with Erdogan's electoral agenda, as he campaigns for the Turkish presidential elections next May.

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What Does Santa Claus Look Like Around The World?

He's making a list, he's checking it twice... But he doesn't always wear a red suit. From Aruba to Finland and Liberia, here's what Christmas looks like around the world.

Across the globe, Santa Claus is recognized as the Christmas gift bearer. But he is not always known as a red-suited jolly man. The tradition of a man bringing gifts to children is traced to stories about the early Greek bishop St. Nicholas of Myra, a small city in modern-day Turkey.

Santa Claus today not only goes by different names, like Father Christmas and Old St. Nick, but is linked to different folktales and cultural practices. Here are lesser known variations of Santa, from the beaches of Aruba to the snow-capped mountains of Finland.

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Why Poland Still Doesn't Have Nuclear Power

Poland has announced plans to build its first nuclear power plant with the help of a U.S. firm. But it's not the first time the country has tried to build such a plant. So, will it actually happen this time?

-Analysis-

WARSAWPoland is surrounded by numerous nuclear power plants in the neighborhood: in Germany, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Hungary, Belarus, Bulgaria, Finland and Sweden. But we don't have our own. There are more than 500 reactors in operation worldwide, and another 55 are under construction. Most are slugging along, and their prices have risen well above the original construction costs.

The best example is Britain's Hinkley Point C power plant. The UK owns the most expensive nuclear power plant in the world. But the work is still going on, as the construction has been delayed.

The construction of a Polish nuclear power plant seemed to be underway in the 1980s, when the country was to join the ranks of nuclear-powered countries. We were to have not one but two power plants — one in Pomerania in Żarnowiec in the north of the country and another in the village of Klempicz, near the city of Poznań in the west. But the government abandoned these plans in 1990. The reasons were a lack of money, the collapsing USSR, and a lack of enthusiasm following the Chernobyl disaster.

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How To Welcome Russians Fleeing Conscription? Europe Should Be Careful

Europe should welcome the exodus of conscientious objectors from Russia. But the conditions vary across the continent, and there needs to be some security precautions.

-Analysis-

BERLIN — Russia's President Vladimir Putin is currently suffering his greatest defeat in the battle for terrain, but also public opinion.

The Kremlin may spread as much propaganda as it likes, but the pictures of kilometer-long lines of cars at the borders and thousands of young men fleeing abroad to avoid the draft with hastily packed bags show clearly what the Russian population thinks of Moscow's war of aggression.

In this sense, one can only hope that the stream will continue to flow for a long time.

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But how should European governments deal with the mass of fleeing conscientious objectors?

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In The News

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Geopolitics
Johannes Jauhiainen

Finland May Ban Tourist Visas For Russians In New Move By Nordic Neighbor

Finland has recently joined Sweden in seeking NATO membership in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Now Finnish politicians say they also support blocking Russian tourists from coming across the 1,340-km-long border the two countries share. It would be a bold move.

HELSINKI — For Russians, particularly the rising middle class in and around the city of Saint Petersburg, Finland has become a favorite travel destination. The capital Helsinki is only a three-and-half hour train ride away, the scenic Finnish lakeside town of Imatra sits across the border from Svetogorsk and Russian skiers flock to Lapland mountain resorts each winter.

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But this tourist traffic may be about to vanish as a growing number of Finnish politicians are calling for restrictions on visas, a move that would broaden the scope of the sanctions against Russia to target ordinary people in addition to state enterprises, public officials and Oligarchs.

Such a clampdown would also come after the historic decision of Finland, which shares a 1,340 kilometer (830 mile) border with Russia, to seek NATO membership (alongside Sweden) in response to the invasion of Moscow’s southern neighbor, Ukraine.

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Geopolitics
Meike Eijsberg

NATO Entry For Sweden And Finland? Erdogan May Not Be Bluffing

When the two Nordic countries confirmed their intention to join NATO this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated his plans to block the application. Accusing Sweden and Finland of' "harboring" some of his worst enemies may not allow room for him to climb down.

-Analysis-

LONDON — When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared his opposition to Finland and Sweden entering NATO, it took most of the West's top diplomatic experts by surprise — with the focus squarely on how Russia would react to having two new NATO members in the neighborhood. (So far, that's been a surprise too)

But now Western oversight on Turkey's stance has morphed into a belief in some quarters that Erdogan is just bluffing, trying to get concessions from the negotiations over such a key geopolitical issue.

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To be clear, any prospective NATO member requires the consent of all 30 member states and their parliaments. So Erdogan does indeed have a card to play, which is amplified by the sense of urgency: NATO, Sweden and Finland are keen to complete the accession process with the war in Ukraine raging and the prospect of strengthening the military alliance's position around the Baltic Sea.

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Geopolitics
Emma Albright, Shaun Lavelle and Cameron Manley

Fears Of Putin’s War Spreading Amid Rumblings In Transnistria

More of the latest: European economy under threat by gas cuts, Mariupol soldier holed up in steel plant, Finland poll on joining, Russia pulls out mercenary troops from Libya, U.S. considers labeling Russia sponsors of terrorism, and more...

The recent series of explosions occurring in part of Transnistria, a breakaway territory within Moldova that has housed Russian troops for decades, have sparked fears that this region may be where Vladimir Putin will take his expansionist war next.

The inhabitants of Transnistria, considered to be pro-Russian, insist they want to be left out of the conflict, reports Tonia Mastrobuoni reports for Italian daily La Repubblica. “We want peace and want to be left in peace,” one of several residents interviewed who refused to give their name.

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Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu insisted that the situation in Transnistria is "more or less calm," though in the past 36 hours there have been a series of explosions that no one has taken responsibility for — and which Ukraine says could be used by Moscow as a pretext to move into Moldova.

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Geopolitics

How Putin's Arctic Dreams May Crack Under The Weight Of Ukraine War

With its vast untapped resources up for grabs, the Arctic region is where the climate crisis is now inextricably linked to a new global arms race. Now Moscow finds itself shut out in the cold after invading Ukraine.

The worldwide impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine extends from everything from food and energy supply to a massive refugee crisis to the revival of nuclear arms tension. Yet thousands of miles to the north, Vladimir Putin has his eye on another region with its own hefty weight on the future of the planet: the Arctic.

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The reason? The glaciers and icebergs covering parts of the Arctic Ocean are melting away. In the last 40 years, the multi-year ice (the thicker part that stays throughout the summer) has decreased by roughly half, and estimates predict that the Arctic Ocean is heading for ice-free conditions by mid-century.

While that is bad news for the planet, as sea ice acts as a huge white sun reflector keeping our planet cool, it also means that lucrative resources such as oil, gas and minerals become increasingly accessible to the countries with territorial access to the Arctic.

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Geopolitics
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Does NATO Deter Or Provoke Russia? Look To Finland And Sweden For The Answer

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has rekindled the Nordic debate over the possibility of joining NATO, prompting Russian threats. It's a microcosm for the conflict itself.

Like elsewhere, Sweden and Finland have taken historic decisions in the face of Russia's invasion of Ukraine last month — each breaking their respective policy of not providing arms to countries at war, by sending military aid to Kyiv.

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Indeed, for Sweden, the last time it happened was during the Winter War of 1939, when it gave assistance to Finland to counter an invasion by the Soviet Union.

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Geopolitics
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Trying To Gauge Russian Ambitions? Look How Nervous Its Nordic Neighbors Are

The eyes of the world are on the Russian-Ukrainian border as Putin threatens an invasion. However, the more vital stage of the Kremlin’s military ambitions is the Baltic Sea, where the likes of bordering countries like Finland and Sweden are mobilizing troops as Moscow tries to undermine the allegiance of the EU and former Soviet states.

While tensions between the U.S and Russia mount with the Kremlin gathering troops at the border of Ukraine, countries farther north are preparing for the worst.

In Sweden, Dagens Nyheter reports that the country of 10 million people deployed armored vehicles and 100 soldiers to patrol streets on the island of Gotland on Friday in response to Russian landing ships sailing into the Baltic Sea. Even if the Swedish Armed Forces announced soon after that the ships were leaving, serious questions about Russia's military ambitions remain.

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Society
Laure Gautherin

Bad Ruses, Good Reasons: How To Avoid Military Service In 5 Countries

In the countries that require military service, those who refuse to serve must either try to explain their exemption or find a creative short-cut to avoid the obligation. Here are some examples.

Military conscription has ebbed and flowed through history, typically depending on national security (wars), economics (jobs) and demography (young men). In recent years, many countries have outright eliminated the draft or replaced it with a civil service requirement. At the same time, other countries have been bringing back obligatory military service to respond to security threats or as a solution to rising high school dropout and unemployment rates. Morocco reinstated conscription in 2018 after 12 years, with a 12-month required military service for all men and women aged 19 to 25.

Amid newfound tensions around the Baltic Sea, the Swedish government also decided to reintroduce military conscription in March 2017, though for a limited number of citizens - 4,000 men and women were selected from a pool of 13,000.

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