Can Turkey block the entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO?

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed strong views against Sweden and Finland joining NATO. He has accused the two Nordic countries, in particular Sweden, of serving as a haven for “terrorists” from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, Ankara’s black beast. However, will Turkey go all out and block the accession process? FRANCE 24 takes a closer look.

Turkey it has consistently adopted different positions than other countries within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). After buying an anti-missile system from Russia in 2019, Ankara is again alone in opposing the accession of Finland and Sweden.

“How can we trust them? Sweden is a breeding ground for terrorist organizations… We will not support joining NATO,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday, May 16, after the two Nordic countries decided to formally apply for membership.

Officially, Ankara is angry at the close ties these two countries, particularly Sweden, have with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed political group. Formed in 1978, the PKK has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community, including the US and the EU.

“Sweden occupies a specific place in the Turkish diaspora. Since the 1980s, the country has hosted many political refugees, many of whom Turkey suspects to be PKK militants. This is a long-standing dispute between Stockholm and Ankara.” , said. Élise Massicard, specialist in political sociology of contemporary Turkey and researcher at Sciences Po. “According to a widespread view among Turkish nationalists, the reason the PKK still exists, despite 40 years of war waged with extraordinary means, is because it has these ‘rear bases’ outside of Turkey,” Massicard added.

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‘right of veto’

Ankara has made it clear that it wants to use the Swedish and Finnish apps as a tool to weaken support for Kurdish separatist groups. “We must absolutely stop supporting terrorist organizations … I am not saying this as a bargaining chip, but because this is what it means to be allies,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu said in Berlin on Sunday. , on the sidelines of one of the organization’s informal meetings.

In theory, Turkey has every right to block the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO. according to Article 10 of their founding treaty, the two Scandinavian countries must convince the 30 members of the organization of the merits of its application.

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“The alliance works on the principle of consensus. Therefore, each member has the right of veto. We saw it with Greece, which opposed North Macedonia’s accession for years” due to a dispute over the country’s name. [Macedonia is also the name of a Greek region]said geopolitical scientist Olivier Kempf.

Although the red carpet seemed to be rolled out for Sweden and Finland, two strong democracies close to NATO through their Partnership for Peace ProgramTurkey’s position is causing confusion within the defense alliance.

“I am sure we will be able to find common ground, a consensus on how to move forward on membership issues,” said Jens Stoltenberg, the organization’s secretary general, before adding that Turkey had “clearly indicated its intention not to block.” the process.

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“There will be so much political pressure on Turkey that it will not be able to block the accession of Finland and Sweden,” Kempf said.

Turkey awaits compensation

According to specialists, Ankara is above all shedding light on Swedish support for the PKK in order to regain influence within the military alliance. “Turkey’s relationship with NATO has been very complicated for several years. It had reached the point of talking about his exclusion. For Turkey, it is about avoiding being sidelined,” Massicard said.

Turkey has taken this position in the hope of obtaining compensation from members of the organization, in particular the United States. In 2020, Washington imposed sanctions on the Turkish defense industry, following the latter’s purchase of the Russian S 400 anti-missile system. Turkey was also excluded from the US F-35 stealth fighter program, for which ” had placed an order and paid an initial payment of $1.4 billion,” according to International Messenger. A gesture from Joe Biden on this issue would undoubtedly overcome Ankara’s reticence.

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Finally, it is quite possible that Turkey is sending a message to Russia, which sees the expansion of NATO to the East by Western countries as a betrayal. Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Ankara has been trying to maintain good relations with the two opposing countries on which its economy largely depends. “The Turks and the Russians also share the Black Sea and common interests in Syria,” Kempf said. “Erdogan supports Ukraine, but he is careful not to go too far.”

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This topic serves as a good reminder that NATO, though reinvigorated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, is not immune to strategic divergence. “The fact that NATO is united on essentials does not necessarily mean that there is a general consensus on everything,” Kempf summed up. “In the end, the underlying problems remain and have not disappeared with the war in Ukraine.”

This article was translated from the French original.


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