Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan arrives to attend the NATO summit in Madrid, Spain, June 29, 2022.
Nacho Doce | Reuters
NATO will convene a summit on July 11 in Vilnius, Lithuania to approve a new defense plan, announcing the full approval of Sweden, a new member of the alliance, as leaders expect. do.
But more than a year after the Nordic nation applied to join the defense organization, Turkey, which has been a member since 1952 and boasts NATO’s second-largest military, stands in the way.
EU and NATO member Hungary is the only one to resist, but is expected to follow Turkey’s stance on the issue. Participation requires the unanimous approval of NATO’s 31 existing members.
Turkey uses its strengths as an alliance member to extract concessions from other countries. This is a gamble that could pay off quite well for the Turkish government. Or it could backfire by further emphasizing its ties with the West, hurting its already fragile economy.
US President Joe Biden has already told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he wants the US government to withdraw its objection to Sweden’s NATO bid, while Erdogan has said F-16 fighter jets for the Turkish military It is said that it is asking the administration to sell it. The jet could be what Turkey gets in exchange for potential Swedish approval, Biden officials said the two demands were “totally unrelated.”
There are many dangers looming for Turkey, Sweden, and the NATO alliance, and whichever direction Turkey takes, it will all have grave consequences.
beef with sweden
Türkiye’s objection is Swedish support for Kurdish groups that the Turkish government considers terrorists. The Kurdish minority, who make up about 20% of Turkey’s population, has a turbulent history with the Turkish government, which sees some Kurdish political groups as a serious threat. Sweden has made efforts to adjust its policies to Turkey’s demands, but Erdogan said he was not satisfied.
Turkey’s position is also flexible in nature, using its role in NATO to win concessions and remind the West that it is a partner whose demands should be taken seriously, some observers say. To tell.
“It’s still possible that Turkey will allow Sweden to join NATO in time for the July summit,” Ryan Ball, senior Middle East and North Africa analyst at Lane, told CNBC. “But there is clearly a real possibility that President Erdogan will continue to implement this plan well past that deadline.”
Finland and Sweden announced their intention to apply for NATO membership in May 2022, reversing their historic policy of non-alignment following Russia’s bloody invasion of Ukraine in February of the same year.
An official partner of the alliance since the 1990s, the idea that the Nordic countries might actually join the alliance infuriated Moscow. NATO enlargement has been cited before to justify aggression against Ukraine.
Erdogan, on the other hand, has a friendly relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, acting as a sort of intermediary between Moscow and Kiev, refusing to allow the West to introduce sanctions against Russia.
Finally, President Erdogan approved Finland’s NATO membership in March, adding a whopping 1,330 miles of NATO territory along Russia’s western land border. But he says Sweden has not yet done so. Making the progress Ankara seeks, He accused them of allowing Kurdish protests in Stockholm to support the PKK (Kurdish Workers’ Party), which both countries have designated as a terrorist group.
Many Kurdish activists in Sweden say they do not support terrorism but oppose President Erdogan and his policies. Now fears Stockholm will sell them out for NATO membership.Turkey’s Stockholm demands The plan involves the extradition of certain Kurdish activists to Turkey, some of whom are Swedish citizens and protected from extradition under Swedish law.
“President Erdogan said Sweden was on the right track by amending its anti-terrorism law,” a July 5 statement from the Turkish president’s office said. “But the supporters of the PKK (Kurdish Workers’ Party) … are a terrorist organization. If they continue to freely organize demonstrations glorifying terrorism, the measures taken will be null and void,” he added.
Kamal Alam, a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, explained that Turkey is using this opportunity to send an important message about its national security interests.
Participants jump on a banner bearing the portrait of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a demonstration organized by the Kurdish Democratic Social Center against the Turkish president and Sweden’s bid for NATO in Stockholm on January 21, 2023.
Christine Olson | AFP | Getty Images
“Many of Turkey’s stances, although this may seem like a pose, are a direct message to Europe that the Turkish government has not gotten over the EU’s support for the YPG/PYD in northeast Syria, and that the PKK It also provides indirect support to the , referring to Syrian Kurdish militants and political groups that have ties to the PKK but have been integral to the fight against ISIS in Syria.
“This stance is a direct result of the aftermath of the war in Syria, which has left Turkey on many fronts from the EU,” Alam said. “The headline may be a tactical deterrent to NATO membership, but the overall strategic message is not to disturb Turkey’s national security.”
He also noted the EU’s decades-long rejection of Turkey’s EU membership, saying: “Turkey claims that we are NATO’s second largest military force, and any threats and deadlocks will endanger the EU.” After accession, we now intend to reverse the process of who is who.” go in and out. ”
‘playing with fire’
While the gamble could be profitable for Turkey, it could also tear apart already strained ties with its Western allies and even backfire economically.
“Turkey’s blockade of Sweden’s accession to NATO is not a clear ticket to economic impact, but it is a game of fire,” said Gnei Yirdis, a researcher specializing in Turkey and Syria.
“The move is part of a broader dance that Ankara is doing between Russia and NATO, using its unique position to its advantage,” he told CNBC.
“Turkey feels it can withstand a hot fight against Sweden for a while because of its delicate ties with the West on other fronts, such as sanctions against Russia. But the time is ticking,” Yirdis warned. “The window to profit from using Sweden’s member states is closing. Then, especially as the costs of managing Russian relations grow, Turkey will pay a price, and inevitably a more compromised scale. and will be tilted towards decreasing profits.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Turkey’s economy has been on a roller coaster in recent years, with inflation hovering between 40% and 80% last year. currency it lost about 80% of its value dollar in the last five years.
Timothy Ashe, senior emerging markets strategist at BlueBay Asset Management, said Turkey can’t afford to take more risks in such a volatile environment.
“At a time when Turkey’s macro situation is at stake, with Turkey accepting Sweden’s NATO membership in Vilnius or else risking a major breakdown in relations with the West, the time has come to make a decision. ‘” Ashe wrote in an emailed note.
“We’re going to go to the last eleven and a half hours,” he said. “But if that doesn’t happen, there will be a major crisis in Turkey-NATO relations, at a time when Turkey’s macroeconomy looks particularly vulnerable.”