Wednesday. 5/1/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Finnish Air Force

Column / Petri Burtsoff

Bloc chain

During the cold war, Finland’s decision not to join Nato made perfect sense. In Europe, the military strength of the Soviet Union far outstripped that of the multilateral alliance and Finland had suffered a traumatic defeat at the hands of its eastern neighbour in the Second World War. Back then, neutrality was the key to Finland’s independence. Even membership of the European Community (the precursor to the EU) was ruled out because it would antagonise Moscow. This policy became known as the Paasikivi-Kekkonen doctrine and it is still taught on international relations courses the world over as an example of shrewd statecraft.

But the doctrine is outdated. Finland has not been neutral since it joined the EU in 1995 and the euro in 2002. Since then, it has participated in Nato-led military campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo, often more wholeheartedly than actual Nato members. Its military is Nato-compatible in both the way it trains its soldiers and the weapons it uses, such as the 64 Lockheed Martin F-35 multi-role fighters (pictured) it has just bought from the US. But, most importantly, the cold war is over and there is no Soviet Union; only a bullish, antagonistic Russia whose insistence on “security guarantees” is correctly recognised by Helsinki as an attempt to exert pressure on its sovereign neighbours.

So, just as the Baltics did in 2004, Finland should join Nato. The mutual defence clause in the alliance’s Article Five would offer Finland security guarantees against Russia, which has proven itself more than willing to invade sovereign European nations. Joining would also serve to further anchor Finland in a community to which it belongs and – since 90 per cent of EU citizens live in a Nato-aligned country – in which it arguably already resides.

Image: Getty Images

Defence / Global

Arm in arms

In a rare joint statement, the US, China, Russia, France and the UK have agreed to avoid nuclear war at all costs, pledging to use nuclear weapons for defensive purposes only. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council promised to continue multilateral co-operation on nuclear arms control and to reduce strategic risks. “We believe strongly that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented,” the statement reads. While China has said that it hopes the agreement will increase mutual trust, the proclamation comes amid rising geopolitical tensions between Moscow and Washington over Russia’s military build-up on its border with Ukraine. Security analysts have greeted the declaration with some cynicism. “This is a good symbolic development but the nuclear countries are all modernising their arsenals,” Paul Rogers, international security advisor at Open Democracy, told The Monocle Minute. “None of the countries have joined the UN’s Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which would require them to eliminate their arsenals.”

Image: Getty Images

Transport / Switzerland

Ridden virtues

Shared micromobility schemes, such as e-scooters and e-bikes, have long been touted as the environmentally friendly future of transport. But their green label could be misplaced, according to researchers at ETH Zürich. Two-wheeled electric vehicles are often vaunted due to their low CO2 emissions compared to petrol-burning cars and motorbikes – but therein lies the problem. New research suggests that such schemes are not in fact replacing motorised journeys; they are more often used as an alternative to walking, public transport and cycling, all of which have a far lower carbon footprint.

According to the study’s author Daniel Reck there are still potentially untapped benefits if the schemes are used properly, for example in reducing congestion during the last mile of journeys. This, however, would rely on sensible planning and clusters that align with public-transport networks. “I certainly think that sharing is a good basic principle,” says Reck. “Whether this potential can be realised depends on how we integrate and use micromobility in the future.”

Image: Getty Images

Music / UK

Ashes to cash-in

The estate of David Bowie (pictured) has sold the publishing rights for the late musician’s entire catalogue of songs to Warner Chappell Music, an arm of the Warner Music Group, for a reported $250m (€221m). The deal means that the company now owns the rights to not only Bowie’s songs but also practically all recordings of them. It is the latest in a recent series of multimillion-dollar acquisitions of the oeuvres of legacy artists, beginning in 2020 when Bob Dylan sold his entire catalogue of more than 600 songs to Universal for more than $300m (€265m). These deals allow publishing companies to collect all future income from royalties – including those from music used in advertising, TV programmes and films – and are increasingly seen by artists and their estates as a way to secure a considerable payday in an era of diminishing revenue caused by streaming.

Image: Andrej Vasilenko

Culture / Europe

Urban legends

Esch-sur-Alzette in Luxembourg, Kaunas in Lithuania (pictured) and Novi Sad in Serbia are to be the EU’s European Capitals of Culture for 2022, replacing Croatia’s Rijeka and Ireland’s Galway, which have held the title jointly since 2020. As always, the hope is that the designation will give these second-tier cities a chance to boost their image, promote sustainable tourism and rethink social and economic development through the prism of culture. Kaunas’s celebrated modernist architecture recently received the European Heritage Label and featured in the December/January issue of Monocle. Novi Sad is the first Serbian city to be named a Capital of Culture and sees the title as an opportunity to both consolidate its links with the wider EU and reinforce connections with its Balkan neighbours. “A successful Capital of Culture is open to the world, illustrating our union’s willingness to promote culture as a driver for peace and mutual understanding worldwide,” said Mariya Gabriel, the bloc’s commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and youth. “It is also inclusive and a tool to reach out, in particular to the younger generation, with the view to empowering them to become actors of positive change in the further development of our cities.”

Image: Alamy

M24 / Tall Stories

Field of Corn, Columbus, Ohio

Diana Kruzman investigates a collection of maize monoliths that populate a grassy field in suburban Columbus, Ohio.

Monocle Films / Global

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