Does Erdogan really want to prevent Finland and Sweden from joining NATO?

Turkey opposes the admission of Sweden and Finland to NATO. Countries located in Northern Europe are on the verge of applying to join the alliance in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But the Turkish snag threatens to throw a wrench into the works. The accession of new member states requires the approval of all existing NATO members. This threatens to create an image of Turkey as Putin’s Trojan horse.

“We are watching developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we are not positive about it,” President Erdogan said at a press conference in Istanbul on Friday. He described the entry of Greece’s archenemy to NATO in 1952 as a mistake. We know the Greek position towards Turkey with the support of NATO. As Turkey, we don’t want to make another mistake like this. In addition, the Scandinavian countries are home to terrorist organizations.”

Gulen movement

Erdogan believes that Sweden and Finland are very sympathetic to the movement of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused of the failed coup in Turkey, and the terrorist movement of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Both countries granted asylum to Gulenists. In addition, Sweden has some Kurdish parliamentarians who sympathize with the PKK. The Swedish government also supports the Syrian branch of the PKK and maintains contact with the group’s leaders.

In response to Erdogan’s comments, Sweden and Finland waited. Support for NATO membership has grown in both countries since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto urged the process to move forward “step by step”. Swedish Foreign Minister Anne Linde said she was confident that her country’s membership application would have the unanimous support of NATO members.

Nor does the US government want to jump to conclusions. Karen Donfried, the top US diplomat for Europe at the State Department, said in a phone conversation with reporters Friday that she is trying to clarify Turkey’s position. She remained silent and said, “It is not clear to me that Turkey says it will resist.” Swedish and Finnish membership in NATO will be discussed at the NATO meeting in Berlin on Sunday.

The outdated air force

Historian Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkey Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says the impression Turkey makes on this is dire. “Everyone will forget why Turkey is opposing Turkey and will solomon instead Ankara for being Russia’s ‘NATO ally’,” he wrote on Twitter. “There is also a risk of undermining the positive momentum Turkey has built in the US since the war in Ukraine, even undermining the purchase of F-planes.” 16.”

Turkey wants to buy 40 F-16s from the US company Lockheed Martin to maintain its old air force. The F-16 is an alternative to the F-35, the new generation of NATO combat aircraft, of which Turkey wanted 100. But the Pentagon stopped that because Turkey had bought the Russian S-400 missile system. Turkey recently won President Biden’s support for the purchase of F-16s. But Congress is still hesitant.

According to Cagaptay, NATO Turkish diplomats have promised to settle the dispute over Finland and Sweden behind the scenes. But Erdogan drew a line with his comments on Friday. Perhaps he is trying to force concessions. For example, Sweden and Finland ended the arms embargo they imposed on them in 2019 in response to Turkey’s intervention in northern Syria. Or Sweden will stop supporting the Syrian branch of the PKK.

to intervene

This is not the first time that Turkey has intervened in NATO. In 2019, Ankara used its veto to block a defensive plan for Poland and the Baltic states in an attempt to impose support for its intervention in northern Syria. But after Biden was elected, Turkey withdrew its opposition. But this time, the damage to Turkey may be greater. Because other NATO members see Russia as an existential threat and because membership of Sweden and Finland is the highest priority.

Read also This opinion article From former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt on his accession to NATO

Leave a Comment