Great Game: Book burnings and Ukrainian peace talks
We begin close to our home in Denmark, where the phenomenon of Quran burnings is once again the topic of the hour. The right wing provocateur and nutjob Rasmus Paludan started the trend before he stood for the Danish Election in 2019 and since took his activites across the Sound to Sweden. The burning of the Quran is obviously a huge affront to the global muslim population and was a major roadblock for Sweden’s entry into NATO.
Now, muslim societies are threatening with political and economic ramifications including boycotts of danish consumer goods and attacks on local embassies. This had lead Danish Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen to begin working on legislation to ban burnings of holy books in order to defend Danish national security and interests. This is a highly controversial move domestically, but might pour some water on the fires in the Middle East. It has obviously been welcomed by the Danish chamber of commerce who remain fearful of Danish exports og dairy and other food products to muslim countries. The fear is quite overrated in our views. During the comparable cartoon crisis of 2005-2006, Danish exports to muslim countries only fell by 10% and most of Danish exports are services (mainly shipping) and medical products, who will likely not be impacted by a boycott on Danish or Swedish consumer goods.
Nevertheless, the Quran book burnings might yet again be a pebble in the shoe of the Swedish government, anxious to finally join NATO. Even though Turkey agreed to Swedish membership during the Vilnius summit last month, the Turkish parliament still has to ratify the agreement. President Erdogan, who personally struck the deal in Vilnius, doesn’t hold a majority on their own, but could easily get the votes from opposition parties who were more positive than Erdogan on Sweden’s admission into NATO. Still, Erdogan might choose to play one last card in the NATO debacle and have portions of his party vote against or abstain the vote in order to force an even greater payment from NATO. I definitely wouldn’t rule that out.
Peace talks on the way?
Speaking of Turkey – I’m very curious to see the role they will play in the upcoming Jeddah peace talks between Ukraine and Russia. We still know very little of the Jeddah meetings that are set to take place this week-end, but here’s my quick analysis on some of the questions we’ve received: