What does Turkey want from NATO?

4 mins read
What to know about NATO... What is the organisation's role in the Ukraine crisis?

Sweden and Finland are at NATO’s doorstep for membership. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, both Scandinavian countries abandoned years of neutrality. In particular, the Helsinki administration, which shares a 1340-kilometer land border with the Kremlin, and the Stockholm government, the unofficial spokesperson of the Western camp, see the Atlantic Alliance as a safe haven against the Russian threat. Nevertheless, the final decisions in terms of membership will be shared with the public tomorrow. But it is difficult to say that the Atlantic Alliance’s decision is final.

What to know about NATO... What is the organisation's role in the Ukraine crisis?

Leading NATO countries, notably the United States, Britain, France and Germany, support the Nordic countries’ accession to the alliance. Washington’s support for these countries is critical. Since the years of the Cold War, the Pentagon has wanted to see the moment when Sweden and Finland would join the Alliance. The scenarios in which the Soviet Union “plunged” into chaos by influencing the Scandinavian countries with its agents were a favorite subject of American espionage films and comics of the 1960s.

In the other camp of the Atlantic Alliance, along with the countries that support Stockholm and Helsinki, Turkey is voicing its objection loudly. The basis of the Ankara administration’s objection lies in the support given to the terrorist organization YPG/PKK from the Scandinavian countries. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after Friday prayers that Turkey is against the membership of Sweden and Finland, adding, “They made a mistake about NATO regarding Greece before, the previous administrations and you know the attitude of Greece towards Turkey with NATO behind its back. As Turkey, we do not want to commit a second mistake in this regard. Moreover, the Scandinavian countries are unfortunately like a guesthouse for terrorist organizations.” In fact, Turkey’s radar includes Sweden, which “hosts” YPG/PKK leaders in its country rather than Finland.

The membership applications of the two Nordic countries will be discussed at the NATO leaders’ summit on June 29-30. The objection of even one of the 30 member states of the Atlantic Alliance is enough to make the application fail. Therefore, the color of Turkey’s game will be decisive.

Ankara’s hand is strong before the summit. Western partners, especially the United States, which wants Sweden to join the Alliance, will try to persuade Turkey to turn stubborn. The NATO veto will be on the main agenda of Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s visit to the United States on May 18. Rumors are that the U.S. will try to dissuade its strategic partner by taking steps to sell F-16s to Turkey. Another possibility is that Sweden and Finland will be given the green light for membership in NATO in exchange for reducing the level of support given to Greece in the energy race in the Eastern Mediterranean.

As a result, Turkey is the only obstacle to the possibility of NATO enlargement. Countries such as the U.S. and Germany will sit at the table with Ankara to persuade. Turkey has a strong hand at the negotiating table. But eventually, Sweden will give the green light to Finland’s NATO membership. The question is, what guarantees will Turkey receive from its Atlantic Alliance partners in this process?

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