Friday 7 April 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 7/4/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Petri Burtsoff

Joining the fray

It was momentous for me and many Finns to watch our flag hoisted over the Nato HQ in Brussels this week as our country became the 31st member of the alliance. But it’s hard to explain to people outside Finland just how strong our sense of being left alone to fend off Russia during the Second World War still is and how Russia’s menace has guided the country’s defence thinking ever since.

To me, it felt all the more personal for two reasons. First, my family lost everything it had – their homes, their cattle, many even their lives – to Soviet aggression in 1939. The village where my grandfather was born in Finnish Karelia was annexed by the Soviet Union and has remained in Russian hands ever since.

Perhaps because this trauma runs in the family, I’ve been a fervent and lifelong supporter of Finnish Nato membership. For decades this meant being branded a “warmonger”, as a great majority of Finns believed that staying outside military alliances offered the strongest guarantee for Finland’s territorial integrity. That all changed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and today most of the population is rejoicing in the knowledge that we will never fight alone.

But such is the magnitude of this paradigm shift in the Finnish defence doctrine that when the honeymoon period is over, we Finns will need to face an uneasy reality. Will Finland allow Nato soldiers to be stationed near the border, inevitably provoking the Russians? Moreover, aren’t Finnish soldiers now responsible for defending all of Nato’s 31 member states, as opposed to just their own territory?

If – many say when – a wider territorial conflict in Europe erupts, Finnish soldiers will be sent abroad to fight. This is something that we need to learn to live with as Nato members. Having powerful allies gives us protection but also grave new responsibilities.

Petri Burtsoff is Monocle’s Helsinki correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Alamy

Politics / Peru

Judgement call

A federal court in San Francisco announced on Wednesday that former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo Manrique will be extradited back to his home country to face corruption charges. Toledo (pictured) has been embroiled in one of Peru’s biggest scandals, involving three other former presidents, allegedly accepting millions of dollars in bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. Between 2004 to 2013, Peru was touted as a beacon of political stability, with one of the fastest-growing economies in South America. Since those heady days, the Andean nation has been in freefall. Last December, president Pedro Castillo was removed from office following his attempt to stage a coup; protests have been sweeping the country since. His replacement, Dina Boluarte, has done little to quell discontent. Fresh elections are urgently needed if Peru wants any hope of regaining some stability.

Image: Shutterstock

Transport / China

Strange currency

China’s Belt and Road Initiative, in which the country puts up cash to build infrastructure abroad, has always been as much about soft power and winning friends as it is keeping trains and traffic moving. Its latest phase includes a more unified approach to ticketing across the services that it has built since 2013. The system organises the selling platforms of more than 140 countries on an app but the most surprising feature is the currency chosen as standard on international payments: the Swiss franc rather than the US dollar.

“The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is keen to displace the US as the world’s superpower and part of this involves displacing the dollar as the global-reserve currency,” says Aleksandra Gadzala Tirziu, a senior fellow of the Atlantic Council think-tank. “Despite recent rumblings, Switzerland is still globally regarded as a neutral actor, so the CCP has cleverly opted to advance a ‘neutral’ currency in pursuit of an otherwise political aim.”

Image: Fondazione Falcone

Society / Sicily

Memory palace

More than 30 years after the murders of anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, Sicilian charity Fondazione Falcone has announced that it will open a multi-site museum tracing the history of Italy’s fight against organised crime. The arrest of fugitive boss Matteo Messina Denaro earlier this year is proof that Sicily is still reckoning with the shadow of the mafia.

The museum’s first venue is set to open in May inside the central Palazzo Jung in Palermo. It will function as both a memorial and a place to inspire younger generations to take action against organised crime. Other than displaying artworks, films, photographs and documents, the space will also feature sounds and smells as part of an immersive installation meant to evoke salient moments of mafia history. Let’s hope that the current fashion for cultural “experiences” will not tempt the institution and its visitors into making a spectacle of a complicated past.

Image: Steve Hung/Charwei Tsai

Culture / South Korea

Creative fluidity

The 14th edition of the Gwangju Biennale, one of Asia’s main contemporary art festivals, opens today in the South Korean city. The theme for this year’s event, which runs until July, is “Weak and Soft Like Water”. The phrase is taken from a Daoist text and encourages participants to explore topics ranging from contradiction to nature. More than 40 new works commissioned from the show’s 79 featured artists will make their debut, including pieces from South Korean artist Seung-Ae Lee and Thai filmmaker Taiki Sakpisit, while Thai artist Charwei Tsai’s “Spiral Incense Mantra” (pictured) will also be on display.

Other than attracting international visitors, the event is also aimed at the city’s residents who might be particularly moved by Mexico-born artist Aliza Nisenbaum’s paintings about the legacy of the 1980 Gwangju Uprising. “A lot of artists have been affected by this history,” the biennale’s artistic director Sook-Kyung Lee tells The Monocle Minute. “It will resonate with whatever stories the audiences might have individually.”

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / The Concierge

Kadikoy, Cinque Terre and Oregon

Hannah Lucinda Smith takes us on a culinary tour of the vibrant neighbourhood of Kadikoy in Istanbul and Gregory Scruggs visits the newly renovated Cannery Pier Hotel in Astoria, Oregon. We ask Steve Allen, Group CEO of Dnata, how the aviation industry is handling recent surging travel demands. Plus: Monocle’s Vienna Correspondent, Alexei Korolyov, has the latest travel news.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: April issue, 2023

What’s in store for retail? Monocle’s Retail Survey checks out the global benchmarks in shopping, while our spring Style Directory rounds up the labels, designers and products on the radar of the sharpest dressers. Elsewhere, we go in-depth on the mystery of who blew up Nord Stream and reveal Paris’s best sandwich – and how to make it.


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