Welcome to the Family?

    It’s been an exciting week in our Nordic corner of the world. Most news outlets have made sure to run variations of the “end-of-an-era” story, covering the epic turn of events as Finland and later Sweden abandoned a 75-years-old NATO neutrality that had managed to survive all through the Cold War and beyond. Both countries’ governments had to admit in the end that being part of a big and powerful family is, after all, the sensible option in these troubled times of ours.

    The aspiring new members were swiftly reminded, however, that the coveted alliance is just as dysfunctional as any other big family. Hidden behind the united front is a veritable medley of unruly individual wills and opinions, and the closer you look, the more cracks you discover.

    There will be those who try to coax and cajole you and can’t wait for you to join them, but also the odd surly uncle whose approval is hard to gain, like Turkey’s Erdogan who now says ‘Yok!’[1] rather emphatically. Forget that famous Turkish hospitality; the president has made it perfectly clear that he is not willing to roll out the red carpet just yet. Turkey, by the way, is a crucial player in NATO, boasting the second-largest military in the 30-member group after the United States. The country has been a member of the alliance since 1952.

    “We are not closing the door. But we are basically raising this issue as a matter of national security for Turkey,” as Erdogan’s top foreign policy advisor, Ibrahim Kalin, puts it. The issue at hand is, of course, Sweden and Finland’s support for Kurdish separatist organisations like PKK and its Syrian branch YPG, dubbed ‘terrorists’ by Turkey. There is also the tiny detail of a bilateral arms embargo which doesn’t quite fit the picture of belonging to the same family.

    One would think that the two Nordic nations have been through enough already, forced into a complete reset of their self-image of proud independent peacemakers. Now, there will be tough negotiations, too. Compromises will need to be made and principles re-examined. Moreover, it will all need to happen at breakneck speed. Were our scary Eastern neighbour to retaliate, he would probably want to do it while Swedes and Finns are still in the waiting room rather than after they have joined the happy North Atlantic family.

    So, it’s showtime, folks. Don’t you just wish you could eavesdrop on some of the conversations in Brussels, Washington and elsewhere this week? Having on occasion wandered around the souks of Istanbul, I must admit I feel a bit nervous about the far superior bargaining skills of the Turks. Blue-eyed Nordic people are no game to an experienced haggler. And if you dare admit to watching an episode or two of a Turkish soap opera, you’d know that they play in a different league altogether when it comes to family feuds.

    Will our leaders rise to the occasion and manage to emerge from the negotiations with their integrity intact as well as a brand-new membership badge to boast with? After all, it is a fine line between being pragmatic and being a turncoat. And it is far from an ideal situation having to choose between fighting for democratic freedoms and fighting for your life. Sustainability managers should undoubtedly know a thing or two about balancing on that sharp edge and occasionally sliding down the slippery slope.

    It won’t be easy. “But there are things you have to do, otherwise you’re not a human being, just a piece of dirt,” as Jonathan says in Astrid Lindgren’s immortal classic, The Brothers Lionheart.

    [1] ‘No’ in Turkish, I think

    Image courtesy of Brett Jordan on Unsplash
    Julia Axelsson, CAIA
    Julia Axelsson, CAIA
    Julia has accumulated experience in asset management for more than 20 years in Stockholm and Beijing, in portfolio management, asset allocation, fund selection and risk management. In December 2020, she completed a program in Sustainability Studies at the University of Linköping. Julia speaks Mandarin, Bulgarian, Hindi, Russian, Swedish, Urdu and English. She holds a Master in Indology from Sofia University and has completed studies in Economics at both Stockholm University and Stockholm School of Economics.

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