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Geopolitics

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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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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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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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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Sources
Anne-Françoise Hivert

Tom Of Finland, Double Life Of The Gay Icon Who Changed A Nation

His erotic drawings of virile men captured the homosexual zeitgeist. But in his country, where it was illegal to be gay, the artist had to remain undercover. A revival is now spreading around Finland, and helping to change attitudes.

TURKU — For him, he was just Uncle Touko. Tapani Vinkama recalls the vacations he spent in Helsinki with a man who so many foreigners keep asking about. Now 72, Vinkama manages the Kvariaatti bookshop on one of the main streets of Turku, a city in southwest Finland. Only in the fall of 1991 did Vinkama discover the secret life his mother's brother, who had just died.

Behind the successful graphic designer Touko Laaksonen, born in 1920, was the illustrator of homoerotic drawings Tom of Finland, praised abroad but who stayed undercover in his homeland to respect the promise he had made to his sister never to reveal his alias. More than a quarter-century later, a new biopic has been released that retraces his journey for the whole world to see.

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Geopolitics
Antoine Jacob

In Scandinavia, Populists Face The Harsh Reality Of Governing

In Finland and Norway, right-wing, anti-elite and anti-immigration parties have had to adapt to the problems of power, but they still can fire up the base by playing to their gut.

His blue eyes gazing out of black-framed glasses, the silver-haired Hans Andreas Limi readily admits: "It's much easier to be in the opposition, no doubt about it." A bell rings and he's gone. It's voting time in the chamber. On the wall of his office hangs a small Norwegian flag under a layer of Plexiglass along with a smiling portrait of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

Limi is one of 29 deputies and the former secretary of Norway's Progress Party (FrP), one of the northern European parties that came to power through "anti-elite" speeches and thrilling promises. In recent years, right-wing populist parties have entered the government for the first time in Norway and the second time in Finland. Speaking out forcefully and carrying bags full of promises: With them, the demands of the people would be better taken into account; the real problems, treaties and national interests, defended. Since then, the parties have had different fortunes, both discovering that exercising power is not simple. It can also harm popularity.

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Geopolitics
Renaud Honoré

Baghdad To Lapland: Cold Migrant Truths Along Northern Route

SALLA — On the door of the tourism bureau in Salla, Finland, there's a poster proudly informing visitors that they are "in the middle of nowhere." That much is indisputable: Salla is a dark, remote place, lost in the middle of hundreds of miles of Laponian pine forests and covered in a thick mantle of white snow.

"Many tourists like to come and ski in this isolated natural setting," says Heli Karjalainen, the young blond woman who runs the bureau.

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blog

Polar Family Circle

Though it has long, cold and snowy winters, Finland's northernmost province of Lapland, famous for being the traditional home of Santa Claus, has warm (enough) summers. Here, my wife Claudine, my daughter Cécile and I are posing for a sunny family portrait along the polar circle.

Geopolitics
Pavel Tarasenko, Mikhail Korostikov, Ivan Safranov and Galina Dydina

Ukrainian Crisis Rekindles Russia Fears In Finland

Military commanders in Finland want to beef up capabilities on the country's eastern border with Russia amid the backdrop of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

HELSINKI — Back in April, Finland joined its Nordic neighbors in strengthening military cooperation to counter any potential Russian threat, saying in a joint statement that "the Russian army is challenging us at our borders."

Finland still has no intentions to join NATO, but since the start of the Ukrainian crisis, it has increased its cooperation with the western military alliance and launched rapid reforms of its military.

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blog

Eurovision 2015 Contestants: Finland


Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät — which, for brevity's sake and because we don't want the Internet to run out of space, we shall refer to as "PKN" — is a punk rock band that was formed in 2009 in a charity workshop for adults with developmental disabilities. They entered the Eurovision Song Contest to raise awareness for people with Down's Syndrome.

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blog

Song Du Jour #20, Steve'n'Seagulls

The Finnish band Steve'n'Seagulls did a rather amazing cover of ACDC's "Thunderstruck".


blog

Suomi Scrabble

We went to Finland multiple times. Once we even brought a Finnish dictionary with us to try and understand a few words of the very peculiar suomi language ... Many headaches ensued!

blog

The Little Reindeer Girl

Had this adorable young girl really come down from her remote Lapland to sell her reindeer hides in Helsinki? I suspect that even 46 years ago, Finns understood that folklore sells well with tourists.

Geopolitics
Suvi Turtiainen

Sweden And Finland Face Their Russian Fears

The two Nordic countries, one of which shares a long border with Russia, have so far been carefully neutral as Moscow flexes its muscles. Could NATO membership be the answer?

BERLIN — The Baltic states have clearly expressed their concern with regard to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. The annexation of Crimea has awakened deep-seated anxiety, given their history under Soviet domination.

“Thank God we’re NATO members,” Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said last month.

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