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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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Greta’s Andrew Tate Takedown Shines Light On Toxic American Males

Greta Thunberg dealt a knock-out blow online to self-proclaimed "misogynist" Andrew Tate. However, taming the spread of toxic masculinity online is not as simple.

-Analysis-

Two rounds, two knockouts in the all-out verbal dustup that saw Greta Thunberg win the year (or at least, the internet) in the final moments of 2022.

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This Happened—January 3: Greta Thunberg Is Born

Environmental activist Greta Thunberg is born on this day.

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What Sweden's Teacher Shortage Says About Privatizing Education

Sweden prides itself on being a knowledge economy, but its education system is at a breaking point because of a lack of teachers. The problem may trace back to the decision a generation ago to move to a free-choice voucher system.

STOCKHOLM — For tourists eager to explore the northern extremes of Sweden, Kiruna is a mandatory stop. The city is both the country’s northernmost municipality, right under the polar circle, and also the largest, covering an area similar in size to Slovenia and Wales.

Home to the world’s largest mine, Kiruna made international headlines a few years ago when the city started moving entire neighborhoods after the spreading of cracked formations caused by the mining activities.

But there is another disturbing reality behind the winter hinterland: the city shows, unlike any other, the growing teacher shortage Sweden is confronted with and all its consequences.

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Geopolitics
Amélie Reichmuth

Nordic 007: The Quiet Rise Of Russian Spies In Sweden

This week marks the opening of what's been described as the biggest Swedish espionage case since the end of the Cold War, as tensions rise in the face of the Russian war in Ukraine.

STOCKHOLM — “Disappear in Sweden,” “Prosecuted before questioning,” “Spy.”

These are a few examples of the 28 internet searches Payam Kia did shortly before being arrested in November 2021, according to Stockholm based daily Aftonbladet.

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Two months earlier, his older brother Peyman, a former employee of the Swedish armed forces and security services, had been arrested on charges of aggravated espionage. The two brothers, who lived together in Uppsala, about an hour north of Stockholm, had long been suspected of sharing classified information. But it was only on November 11 that prosecutors brought charges against them, after having gathered enough evidence to support what has been described as Sweden’s largest espionage case since the end of the Cold War.

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Economy
Ireneusz Sudak

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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Geopolitics
Marc Pfitzenmaier

Gotland, The Swedish Island Standing Between Russia And NATO Vulnerability

The Swedish island of Gotland is the last bastion between Russia and the entire Baltic region. Sweden has been busy fortifying the island, with the stakes even higher as Stockholm is set to join NATO, and life for locals makes it clear that something has changed.

VISBY (Gotland) — Dag Svensson is kneeling on the ground in full combat gear. Propped on his shoulder is a 12-kilogram anti-tank guided missile, also known as an NLAW. Under the stern gaze of his captain, Svensson takes aim — a red laser dot in the scope indicates his target — and releases the safety with the fingers of his right hand and presses the ignition button.

There is no recoil from the rocket today, instead a mechanical whirring comes from the housing. Dag's captain is happy, so is Dag.

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"I could fire in the field at any time," he says confidently. It is also clear what he would aim for if the exercise turned into an emergency: "We are training here to meet the Russians."

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Geopolitics
Christian Bueger

Nord Stream Sabotage: Why Underwater Pipelines Are So Vulnerable

Whatever caused the damage to the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea, it appears to be the first major attack on critical “subsea” (underwater) infrastructure in Europe. It’s now widely thoughtnot least by Nato – that the explosions that led to major leaks in the two pipelines were not caused by accidents.

The alliance says they were a deliberate act of sabotage.

The attacks occurred in the exclusive economic zones of Denmark and Sweden and demonstrate the risks that Europe’s subsea infrastructures are facing. This raises the question of the vulnerabilities of European pipelines, electricity and internet cables, and other maritime infrastructure. Europe will have to revisit its policies for protecting them.

But it is still unclear how the attacks were carried out. The investigations will probably take months to complete. Still, there are two likely scenarios.

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Coronavirus
Emma Frans

So, Did Sweden's No-Lockdown COVID Strategy Pay Off?

During the pandemic, the world watched as Sweden carried out a unique approach to combat the COVID-19 virus, relying on social distancing instead of lockdowns. Although labeled a "disaster" at the time, the strategy worked well for all — except one key group.

As much of the world shut down early in the COVID pandemic, Sweden remained open. The country’s approach was controversial, with some calling it “the Swedish experiment”.

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In The News

Le Weekend ➡️ African Migrants And Ukrainian Wheat, A Tale Of Two Seas

June 11-12

  • A letter to Putin
  • A French-U.S. take on gun culture
  • Saving Mariupol’s dogs
  • … and much more.
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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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Economy
Carl Johan-Karlsson

Will COVID's Boost For Labor Unions Last? Check The Swedish Model

The pandemic has spurred a resurgence in labor unions around the world. But their return to prominence also raises the question of whether they’re the best way to protect workers in a globalized world.

Unions around the world have been on a steady decline over the last half-century: crippled by globalized economics and confounded by the accelerating changes in our work culture, average trade union membership in OECD countries has fallen from 30% in 1985 to 16% today. In the U.S., one-third of workers belonged to a labor union in the 1950s — a far cry from today’s 10.7%, including a meager 6.4% of private-sector workers.

A pandemic was bound to shake the status quo for the world of labor: from a newfound appreciation for what we’ve come to call “essential” workers to a series of layoffs in other sectors to the Great Resignation, which saw individuals reassess what they really want from their career.

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