War in Ukraine: why Turkey opposes Sweden and Finland joining NATO

Turkey does not “will not give in”. Since Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been threatening to block the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO, while these two states have asserted their intention to integrate the organization, after the invasion. of Ukraine by Russia. The hostility displayed by Ankara risks blocking the whole process, the unanimity of the members of the Atlantic Alliance being required to enter the circle.

Sweden and Finland have simultaneously made it known that they wish to continue the discussion begun with Turkey during the meeting with the foreign ministers of NATO members in Berlin last weekend. Franceinfo returns to the reasons for the Turkish blockage.

Because Ankara accuses Stockholm of hosting “PKK terrorists”

The Turkish head of state particularly criticizes Sweden for harboring the “PKK terrorists”, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The PKK, which militates for the autonomy of Kurdistan in Turkey, is classified like terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, but not by Sweden nor by Finland. “How are we going to trust them? Sweden is the breeding ground for terrorist organizations”hammered Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Monday evening.

Sweden has hosted since the 1980s “many political refugees, many of whom are suspected by Turkey of being PKK militants”explains Elise Massicard, a specialist in the political sociology of contemporary Turkey, to France 24. “For Turkish nationalists, if the PKK still exists it is because it has these ‘rear bases’ outside of Turkey”she adds.

Ankara criticizes Stockholm and Helsinki for not having approved, in the last five years, any of the 33 requests for the extradition of the people it accuses of being members of terrorist organizations, the agency reported on Monday. Turkish state Anadolu, citing the Ministry of Justice. According to the agency, the members targeted by these extradition requests belong to the PKK but also to the Gülen movement, also described as a terrorist organization by Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He accuses him of being behind the attempted military coup in 2016 where 265 people were killed, recalls AlJazeera (link in English). This movement is not qualified as terrorist by the European Union, nor by Finland and Sweden.

Becausehe Turkey denounces the embargo on the sale of arms against it

Ankara is also calling on candidates for NATO membership to lift the embargo on arms sales to Turkey, imposed in 2019 by Sweden, Finland and several other countries, after the Ankara offensive. against Kurdish militants in Syria. At the time, this attack was deemed likely to benefit the Islamic State group.

The Turkish president had already requested the lifting of the embargo on March 24. He then explained that he was “in [leur] mutual interest in lifting the restrictions imposed by our allies on our defense industry”.

Because Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains an interlocutor of Russia

By announcing its opposition, Turkey also indirectly recalls its interests with Russia. Although a member of NATO since 1952, Ankara has gradually freed itself from Western influence, believing “that you have to have one foot in the Western camp, while maintaining good relations with Russia, China and others”, explained Marc Pierini, former ambassador of the European Union in Turkey, on the antennas of France 24, at the beginning of March. Thus, Ankara and Moscow have come closer economically, with Turkey massively importing wheat and Russian gas. It has also developed cross-interests with kyiv, notably military.

A position that allows Turkey to mediate between Moscow and kyiv in the current war. If the prospect of Sweden and Finland joining NATO “does not pose an immediate threat” for Moscow, Vladimir Putin warned on Monday that he would react to the “deployment of military infrastructure” of NATO in these two countries.

Because Turkey hopes for compensation from NATO members

The threat agitated by Turkey in the face of the Finnish and Swedish candidacies increases the pressure on NATO members, including the United States. In retaliation for the purchase of the Russian S 400 anti-missile system by Ankara, Washington had excluded Turkey from the program of American stealth fighters F-35, for which it had placed an order and paid a deposit of 1.4 billion dollars, in 2020, recalls International mail.

It is also an opportunity for Recep Tayyip Erdogan to regain influence within the Atlantic Alliance. Because “Turkey’s position has been very complicated for several years with NATO”reports Elise Massicard, to France 24. “We had come to the point of discussing his exclusion.” So for Turkey, it’s about avoiding “to be marginalized”.

The American trade magazine Foreign Policy (in English) quotes elsewhere “several European leaders” according to which Turkish President Erdogan would thus attempt a “rough maneuver” to obtain concessions. These officials “expect Turkey to end up supporting Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership, after diplomatic negotiations”according to the magazine.

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War in Ukraine: why Turkey opposes Sweden and Finland joining NATO

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