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Valar Qringaomis

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Sweden says it will pursue a feminist foreign policy to counter macho Russian aggression

(No, this is not from The Onion)

Swedish Women vs. Vladimir Putin | Foreign Policy
Sweden says it will pursue a feminist foreign policy to counter macho Russian aggression... even if no one really knows what that means.

"Margot Wallström, the newly minted foreign minister, has said that under her leadership Sweden will become the only country in the world to conduct a “feminist foreign policy.” That’s a perspective that flows from U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325, a landmark measure that recognized both the disproportionate impact war has on women and the role women must play in ensuring peace and security.

But questions about what this means in practice and Wallström’s foreign-policy moves come at a time of unusual instability for Sweden...

Wallström will remain at the Foreign Ministry, with her feminist vision for Sweden’s ventures abroad intact. By empowering women, the argument goes, there are better chances of snuffing out wars before they start and of ending them in more equitable ways. However, it is less clear what such a feminist foreign policy has to say about the old-school power politics that Putin has helped resuscitate in the past year.

During a recent debate in the Swedish parliament, Wallström said that her feminist approach is based on the American political scientist Joseph Nye’s concept of “smart power.” “The tools of foreign policy can, in varying degrees, be hard as well as soft. The situation at hand determines this,” Wallström said. “The half of the population that so far has been almost systematically excluded and forgotten — namely, women — will now be included.”

Asked how she believes a feminist foreign policy will help end Russian aggression, Wallström suggested it would be useful to review women’s participation in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and to look at what it does to address the problems women face — a statement exactly as vague as it sounds...

The newfound emphasis on feminism abroad has been remarkably absent in the Swedish response to the recent submarine incursion in Stockholm. When Göranson, flanked by Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist, presented evidence at a November press conference of illicit underwater activity in the Stockholm archipelago, there was no talk of gender perspectives or feminist approaches to territorial breaches. (While the Swedish military maintains that it does not have the evidence to conclusively identify the submarine’s nationality, it was all but certainly a Russian boat.)

Löfven did not parse his words. “Those who are considering entering Swedish territory should be aware of the enormous risks this entails for those who are involved in such violations,” he said. “We will defend our territorial integrity with all available means.”

For Löfven, the moment was an opportunity to show leadership after his government’s shaky first few weeks in power...

But no one quite seems to know how to square that perspective with notions of a feminist foreign policy. “If Sweden would really invest in military defense and at the same time push for a feminist foreign and security policy, then the government faces a big rhetorical problem in explaining how these two things go together,” said Ulf Bjereld, a professor of political science at the University of Gothenburg and a supporter of the Social Democrats.

“One option is to insist that military defense and feminism represent two branches of the same tree: that citizens’ security is guaranteed by having a strong military and that the feminist agenda is guaranteed through diplomacy, aid, and other arsenals beyond defense,” Bjereld said. “Is that credible or not? Well, credibility is like beauty — it’s in the eye of the beholder.”

Wallström herself sees no contradiction between the two. In an interview with Foreign Policy, she said that the Social Democrats’ security policy has always been based on combining the right to territorial defense with an engagement in humanitarianism. “Sweden has been a world power because we have acted constructively to find political solutions and because of our aid policy and contribution to achieving global development,” Wallström insisted...

Wallström’s feminist foreign policy is based on three Rs: representation, resources, and respect. In its dealings with other nations, Sweden should push for fair representation of women in everything from ambassador posts to political committees, notes Wallström. Sweden should also encourage other countries to ensure equal access to resources and to respect women’s rights, she said.

Wallström argued that this women-focused perspective is relevant in all aspects of foreign policy, including in how Sweden deals with territorial breaches and Russian aggression in nearby countries like Ukraine. “To say it’s not relevant in such situations is to suggest that women don’t think we should have a defense force and that is just not true.”

The gender-focused agenda has also been welcomed by at least some in the Swedish military. One enthusiast is Robert Egnell of Sweden’s National Defense College, which has hosted several seminars on gender perspectives in military operations. In a recent op-ed for Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, Egnell wrote that Wallström’s stated focus is an “instrument for preventing armed conflict, achieving peace where violence is already a fact, and promoting post-war reconciliation and reconstruction.”

Egnell pointed out that Wallström’s focus on women, peace, and security is not unique, and has also been embraced by figures such as Hillary Clinton and William Hague, the former British foreign secretary. Wallström’s approach, however, is arguably more original in that she has chosen to label efforts to boost women’s power and participation as “feminist.” She herself insisted that her government is “starting something new here” rather than emulating other international leaders’ approaches.

Critics say the Social Democrats’ push for a feminist foreign policy amounts to little more than branding...

Talk of a feminist foreign policy, according to Tracz, is a distraction. “When it comes to the security issues that Sweden and the world face today, it is not at all clear what a feminist foreign policy can achieve,” she said. “There are no concrete suggestions for how a gender approach to security policy will help put an end to intrusions in the Stockholm archipelago, for instance.”

Wallström’s retort is that a feminist foreign policy does have concrete implications. “Are female police officers being allowed to take part in surveillance operations? Are women in a given country being asked about their ambitions?” she said, citing her efforts to include women in the peace-making process in Ukraine. “This perspective should permeate everything we do”...

The dark winter months until the March election will provide Moscow with ample opportunity to test what this feminism really means in practice."


Maybe feminism can serve Sweden's foreign policy interests by making the Russians die of laughter
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