“Self-interest”: How Ankara stood before Sweden and Finland in NATO

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said that due to Ankara’s opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO, Helsinki and Stockholm face a common challenge against Turkey. Speaking before the Parliament, the Finnish leader separately noted that he trusts the resolution of the disputes with the Turkish side.

“Turkey’s statements have changed and hardened very rapidly in recent days, but I am confident that we will resolve the situation through constructive negotiations. Sweden and Finland are taking historic steps together. Sweden and Finland’s membership in NATO will increase security and strengthen a responsible, strong and stable Scandinavian region,” he said. .

Sweden and Finland decided to join the alliance against the backdrop of a Russian military operation in Ukraine, despite Moscow’s warnings of a backlash against expanding the alliance’s military infrastructure. The Swedish authorities have already taken the appropriate decision and are promising to complete all necessary talks in Helsinki in the near future.

In NATO, the aspirations of the two states are supported, with the key states of the alliance – the United States and Great Britain – even promising them protection during the transition period, which can take about a year. Turkey, which was actually only one member of the alliance, directly opposed the membership of Sweden and Finland.

Ankara explained its position quite sharply, tying it to the protection of national interests and opposing the alliance’s transformation into a “terrorist concentration”. The refusal of these states to extradite the representatives of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the Turkish side considers terrorists and persecuted since 1984, and the supporters of the terrorist organization FETO, to Turkey stems from such a discourse. Fethullah Gülen, a former preacher accused by Ankara of the 2016 coup attempt and also recognized as a terrorist in Turkey.

Why does Turkey interfere with the integration of Sweden and Finland?

According to the Financial Times, most allegations that Turkey is harboring terrorists concern Sweden, as the kingdom not only provided shelter to some supporters of the change of power in Turkey in 2016, but also received large numbers of Kurds – even the number of Kurdish deputies in a Parliament.

The sanctions against Turkey for the supply of defense industry products that support the northern provinces in response to Turkey’s “Peace Source” operation in Syria in October 2019 are also linked to the issue of the fight against Kurdish radicals in Ankara. The conflict was against Syrian Kurds of the YPG (People’s Protection Units), which Ankara associates with PKK representatives.

But, according to Al Jazeera, the emphasis on the Kurdish issue by Turkish officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was made solely to win the support of nationalist-minded voters inside the country.

But in fact, according to the broadcast’s observers, Turkey is blocking Sweden and Finland from entering NATO for personal gain – economic support from the West in general and new F-16 warplanes from the United States in particular.

Experts interviewed by socialbites.ca differ in their assessment of Ankara’s goals in this situation. For this reason, Viktor Nadein-Raevsky, a senior researcher at IMEMO RAS, believes that the multi-vector dominates Erdogan’s approaches.

“In the case of Finland and Sweden, the demands of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) certainly play a role.

However, Ankara pursues a number of other goals as well – trying to emphasize its relative independence within NATO and its desire to pursue an independent foreign policy.

In addition, it is possible that Turkey wants to speed up the process regarding the American F-35 warplanes, whose supply was interrupted by the US after the Turkish side bought the Russian S-400s,” he said.

Nadein-Raevsky added that the issue regarding the Kurds is of particular interest to Turkey, that it is important for Erdogan to take real steps to extradite the Kurds, but that he is also interested in the FETO organization, namely the educational institutions in Sweden and Finland.

“So-called Turkish high schools are located in many countries of the world – this is a huge and profitable empire worth about 80 billion dollars before the persecution began. Therefore, there is a great selfish interest. Turks also demand the return of the teachers of these high schools, as most of them are active supporters of Gülen.”

Kirill Semyonov, an expert at the Russian Council on International Relations (RIAC), agrees in part. According to him, Ankara is currently more interested in resolving the Kurdish issue than any other choice.

“Ankara’s reluctance to meet with them is precisely linked to the activities of PKK and YPG (“People’s Protection Units” of Syrian Kurds) in Sweden and Finland. As for whether the US will make any concessions for Turkey, including its F-16 warplanes, that’s a tough question. How ready the Americans themselves are for this is unknown. However, given that Turkey is quite strict about Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership, leaving this position could have a negative impact on the Turkish leadership,” he said.

Is Ankara ready to block the way to Stockholm and Helsinki?

Officially, Turkey really has the opportunity to prevent the two northern states from joining NATO. According to the charter of the organization, a single decision of the alliance of all countries is required for the admission of new members. The process itself consists of seven phases, including the ratification of the protocol on new members in all countries of the bloc, and can take about a year.

It is also unclear to what extent Ankara is truly prepared to exercise its veto power.

According to CNN, the American expert community no longer excludes that preventing Sweden and Finland from joining could result in Turkey’s exclusion from the alliance.

True, official Washington and other representatives of the alliance have not yet made such assumptions.

From the perspective of RIAC’s Kirill Semyonov, Ankara has not formulated clear demands for Sweden and Finland, leaving much room for concessions on all sides.

“Probably in any case Ankara will have the opportunity to say that it is satisfied with some of the actions of Helsinki and Stockholm. In fact, these states also have the opportunity to save themselves and make some concessions against Turkey. For example, not to extradite terrorists to Ankara, but to close any funds linked to the PKK. So there is a window of opportunity for both parties to find some sort of compromise,” he said.

At the same time, Nadein-Raevsky of IMEMO RAS is confident that the situation is highly unlikely to completely prevent Turkey from joining the northern states. In his opinion, the United States will not allow such a development of events.

“At some stage it is really possible to block from Turkey. Now there is resistance, not only Turkey but also Croatia directly voiced their objections. However, it is clear that the United States will work on this issue to eliminate any objections regarding Sweden and Finland’s membership in the alliance.

Turkey did not support the NATO membership of Finland and Sweden, which became a common challenge on the way of alliance of the northern states. Ankara is demanding that Helsinki and Stockholm extradite Kurdish terrorists and supporters of preacher Gülen accused of involvement in the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. The media state that Ankara is generally trying to use the situation in its favor, including to gain certain benefits from the United States.

Source: Gazeta


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