The June 2022 NATO summit in Madrid was “not the deadline” for Turkey to give the green light to Sweden and Finland’s entrance into the coalition, says Turkish Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin. Though Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Turkey has remained the only member country to block their admission to the coalition. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rescinded his prior approval due to Sweden’s harboring of members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has been deemed a terrorist organization by not only Turkey but by the European Union and United States as well. Though uninterested for many years, Sweden and Finland are now anxious to join NATO due to their close proximity to Russia and disapproval of the Ukraine invasion. Negotiations between Turkey, Finland, and Sweden are currently underway, but Turkey is not letting up its strict demands for the countries to meet in order to become members. Turkey’s demands for Sweden and Finland include extraditing members of the Kurdish Workers’ Party and dropping the partial arms embargo against Turkey.
Turkey’s recent comments regarding their demands for Sweden and Finland seem to be unwavering. Turkish Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin stated that, “We don’t see ourselves limited by any timetable. The speed, scope of this process depends on these nations’ manner and speed of meeting our expectations.” Devlet Bahceli, leader of a nationalist party in Erdoğan’s coalition, believes that Turkey should consider leaving NATO ahead of Finland and Sweden’s admission, stating that, “Leaving NATO should be put on the agenda as an alternative…We did not exist because of NATO and we will not perish without NATO.” On the other hand, the Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Pekka Haavisto has asserted that Finland has committed no wrongdoings: “The very same terrorist legislation is almost in all NATO countries…We all condemn the P.K.K. So we feel that the pressure is also not only so much against Finland and Sweden, but against some other NATO countries on the issue.”
Stability in Eastern Europe should be the utmost priority for all members of NATO, as the invasion of Ukraine poses a grave threat for the region. Though Sweden has been sympathetic to Kurdish refugees and Kurdish demands for autonomy in Turkey, Turkey should nevertheless support Sweden and Finland’s admission to NATO in order to counter Russia’s advancements in Eastern Europe and promote peace in the region. Turkey remains a strategically important member of NATO due to its proximity to conflict-heavy and contested areas such as Syria and the Black Sea, acting as a connection for trade between Asia and Europe. The addition of Sweden and Finland to NATO produce no concern to Turkey and will only help stabilize Eastern Europe; therefore, NATO members should help persuade Turkey to allow for Sweden and Finland to join in order to promote peace throughout the region.
Turkey has remained friendly with Russia throughout its invasion of Ukraine by opposing sanctions against Russia but has also supported the Ukrainian war effort by selling drones to Ukrainian forces and closing Black Sea ports to Russian ships. Turkey’s failure to take a strong stance against Russia and opposition to Finland and Sweden’s additions to NATO has caused many other NATO members to lose faith in the country, hurting any potential chances for Turkey to join the European Union. The Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Pekka Haavisto stated that Finnish diplomats received the approval of all 30 NATO members, including Turkey, to join the coalition, prior to Turkey revoking its approval.
The issue of peace and stability in Eastern Europe should remain a top priority for NATO to address. The addition of Finland and Sweden to NATO would be advantageous and helpful for establishing peace in Ukraine and fighting Russia’s control of the region. As Turkey is a key member of the coalition, President Erdoğan must approve Finland and Sweden’s addition to NATO in order to promote peace in Ukraine and throughout Eastern Europe.
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