Turkey has told its Nato allies that it will not approve their NATO membership bids unless Sweden changes its attitude towards terrorist groups. President Tayyip Erdogan slammed Sweden's liberal approach towards international terrorism, saying it was a "hatchery" for terrorist groups. He characterized Sweden's parliament as a "hatchery," a haven for terrorists.
Ankara also claims that Sweden is harboring members of the PKK and Gulen movement. Turkey has accused Sweden of supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces, which are led by PKK members. But Sweden has not responded positively to Turkey's extradition requests. Ankara is insistent that Sweden and Finland sever ties with the YPG. The Swedish government has previously claimed that the Syrian Kurdish forces played a key role in the fight against ISIS and were important for Syria's stability.
Finland and Sweden are pursuing NATO membership despite Turkey's opposition. But it has not done so. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to block Sweden and Finland from joining Nato. In other words, the two countries host terrorist cells. But it is not clear how these groups can sabotage the United States. If they do, Turkey would be the first to blame for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Ankara accuses Finland of giving safe haven to members of the PKK
In response to Turkey's recent incursion into Syria, Sweden and Finland have banned arms exports to Turkey. Turkey views both YPG and the PKK as terrorist organizations and considers both of them to be an extension of the PKK. According to the YPG's website, the PKK is a member of the Democratic Union Party, a splinter group of the PKK.
Turkey accuses Finland of supporting the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and other leftist extremists, including Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. Turkey blames Gulen for the failed military coup attempt in 2016, and claims that he was behind the plot. Finland and Sweden have not returned a single suspect to Turkey since the military coup attempt.
Turkey has been pressing Finland and Sweden to drop its weapons embargo against Turkey, which sparked a diplomatic row. Sweden and Finland are not part of NATO and Ankara says the two countries are providing safe haven to PKK members. Finland and Sweden have both responded to Ankara's criticism of Sweden, but both sides have said that they are open to dialogue with each other.
During the recent summit in Sweden, Turkey's foreign minister compared the Scandinavian countries to terrorist groups. Finland and Sweden are supporting the YPG forces in Syria, which Turkey considers a branch of the PKK. The two countries also accused Greece of attempting to use NATO against Turkey by using Finland and Sweden as a safe haven. A few years later, Greece returned to NATO.
Despite the lack of direct action against the PKK, Finland has been a major contributor to the peace process in the region. It has also been a key player in stabilizing the region following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Finland, however, rejects Turkey's extradition requests and has a decision pending. The move comes amid growing tensions between the two nations and their NATO allies.
Assuming the accusations are true, the two countries have a shared interest in ensuring that NATO is safe for all countries. Finland's membership would likewise add to NATO's list of barriers to Russian revanchism. This is likely to be of interest to Ankara, but this will almost certainly come at a price. And that price is Turkey's balancing act.
Ankara wants fair treatment
Turkey is furious at the prospect of Sweden and Finland joining NATO and wants both countries to reaffirm their commitment to the alliance and its values. The two countries are closely allied with the PKK, a militant Kurdish group that Turkey classifies as a terrorist organization. Finland and Sweden support the PKK's Syrian branch, the Kurdish People's Protection Units (PKK), which has waged a 30-year insurgency against the Turkish state.
Turkey and Sweden are currently in negotiations on their NATO membership. They are expected to receive approval at a summit in Madrid in June. Once approved, the decision would then have to be ratified by the parliaments of all 30 member countries. This is the fastest time that any country has taken from its application to full membership. However, sources indicate that the negotiations made little headway on Wednesday. If Sweden and Finland want to join, they must first get the backing of the 30 members of NATO.
However, Sweden and Finland's Foreign Ministries have indicated that they plan to send their senior officials to Turkey to discuss the issue. Erdogan has called on the EU and UN to work out an agreement that suits both sides. But, Finland and Sweden have been diplomatic in their approach, but the outcome remains unclear. A veto would be a bad outcome for both countries. In the meantime, Sweden and Finland are likely to resume arms sales to Turkey.
The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has vowed to prevent the countries from joining NATO. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, NATO expanded to include Sweden and Finland. Erdogan has warned that Turkey would not join the alliance if they were 'terrorist-friendly'. However, he has also said that he will not be accepting sanctions, and that Finland and Sweden should not bother to visit Ankara.
The Turkish Foreign Minister also demanded that Sweden and Finland end their ban on arms sales to Turkey. In addition, the two countries must stop their political support for the Gulen Movement, which Ankara accuses of being behind the 2016 military coup attempt. In addition, Ankara wants Sweden and Finland to lift the ban on their arms sales to Turkey as part of their bid to join Nato.
Erdogan views membership as an opportunity to exploit
While most members of NATO see the organization as a mutual defense mechanism, Turkey's entry into the alliance has been seen by some as a golden opportunity. By signaling to the EU and other Western nations that it is for sale, Erdogan is essentially saying that he will receive a reward in return for Turkey's membership. It may be in the form of Congressional approval for an F-16 sale to Turkey or a crackdown on Kurdish Diaspora activism and finance.
As an ally, Turkey is eager to regain access to the U.S. F-35 fighter jet program, which is led by the United States. Turkey also plans to buy a new batch of F-16 fighter jets to upgrade its current fleet. Erdogan may also look to use this opportunity to pressure the US to resume arms sales to Turkey, which were stopped after a military offensive against Syrian Kurds. Britain lifted the ban on arms sales to Turkey late last year, but Turkey is still trying to get what it wants.
As Finland and Sweden have declared their intentions to join the alliance, the Turks may be tempted to join, but the EU and NATO must have the unanimous consent of all member states to grant a membership request. However, Turkey has previously stated that it will not block membership, and instead seek a price. Sweden should lift its arms embargo on Turkey, but should not impose one on another NATO ally.
While some of Turkey's allies may welcome the move, the Europeans have concerns. Turkey may have to deal with Russia despite its close ties with the United States. Moreover, Erdogan has expressed his desire to avoid Western judgment. Erdogan wants to avoid this by relying on Russia as a counterweight to the Western world. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, extended support to Erdogan after the July 2016 failed coup attempt. However, he has not questioned the Turkish government's crackdown on political opponents and journalists.
President Erdogan is also keen to project Turkey's power further in the region, particularly in the Middle East. With the United States' role waning, Turkey has an opening to exploit. He may even look to the European Union for a new partner. If this happens, it is only a matter of time before the NATO alliance is dissolved. The Turkish leadership will have to find a way to deal with the new reality.