Original Content provided by Jacob Atkins
Foreign Minister Margot Wallström: appointed by Prime Minister Stefan Löfven in October of 2014, the Social Democrat (and former representative for the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict) made headlines for her unapologetic feminist platform. From her perspective, comprehensive gender equality is paramount if global peace and security are to someday be achieved. Responsible for implementing Sweden’s external interests, her conviction reinforces the nation’s reputation as a “humanitarian superpower” setting new standards for sustainable development and conflict mitigation. Now that Sweden has become first country to fully adopt a feminist agenda, the seasoned politician must figure out what that entails exactly in regards to the Swedish military responding to recent Russian hostility.
Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist: aligned with Wallström’s ideologies, Hultqvist considers Russia to be Sweden’s largest security threat. Earlier this year he signed a non-binding agreement with the United States to ensure military cooperation and information sharing in a collaborative effort to downplay Russia’s impeding regional presence. Such diplomacy unfolded after Russia threatened to use military force against unaligned Nordic countries (such as Sweden and Finland) if they were to join NATO. Because of such perceived animosity, the Defense Minister recently deployed troops to the island of Gotland for the first time since the Cold War ended to pay closer attention to Russian submarine activity in the Baltic Sea.
Historically speaking, Moscow has generally viewed Sweden as a neutral colleague due to its non-NATO membership. Over the years this neutrality has dissipated, however, due to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine. During the early days of the occupation Sweden accused the Kremlin of unlawfully operating in its airspace and sovereign waters in 2015. The political friction intensified as soon as Sweden joined the rest of Western Europe in sanctioning Russia, all while providing aid to Ukraine. Triggered by these incidents, the Riksdag (Sweden’s national legislature where parliament in located) rejects Russia’s intention to maintain a sphere of influence, refusing to be yet another entity in Putin’s “backyard.” In this sense, perhaps a feminist foreign policy embodies notions of personal solidarity free of unwanted advances in such situations.
For all intents and purposes, it appears as though Sweden certainly has the political clout to effectively promote a feminist campaign throughout Europe. According to the European Council on Foreign Relations, the Scandinavian country is the most influential policymaker in the continent after the likes of Germany. Based on the European Foreign Policy Scorecard, the Swedish government excelled at creating activist-inspired coalitions with fellow EU members, only to be paired with the country’s continual commitment to supporting humanitarian causes.
While many applaud Wallström for her innovative platform, certain critics lambast the Foreign Minister’s program as naive or vague. Even more severe were the harsh receptions she received from certain countries, like Saudi Arabia. Apparently when Wallström was invited to present to the Arab League in Cairo upon winning the election, Saudi officials prevented her from speaking openly about gender equality and female representation in politics. Soon enough Sweden cancelled a defense agreement with the Middle Eastern kingdom for the harsh gesture. On the national level, however, many Swedes were outraged over the ministry’s resolution to scrap a treaty worth over $560 million that involved trading technology and military software. The reality of the situation is that Sweden is the world’s 12th biggest exporter of arms, meaning that losing Saudi Arabia as a trade partner was a major blow to certain Swedish enterprises.
Another opponent of Sweden’s feminist foreign policy is Israel. Once Wallström was elected she became the first EU foreign minister to officially acknowledge Palestine as a sovereign state. In line with her party’s advocacy for human rights and conflict resolution, she firmly believes in a two-state solution for a united Israel. Responding with haste, though, the Israeli foreign ministry recalled its ambassador to Sweden, Isaac Bachman, in 2014. Additionally, Wallström’s diplomatic immunity was suspended if she were to visit Israel- meaning she wouldn’t be granted any special protections as a diplomat or politician.