An uproar has been sparked in the Nordic area as a result of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comments that Ankara may be open to the idea of NATO membership for Finland but not for Sweden. The statements of the President come only a few days after Turkey pulled out of discussions to admit Denmark and Norway as members of the club.
Last year, as a direct reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, both Sweden and Finland submitted membership applications to NATO, marking the end of decades of practising military neutrality. However, in order for their applications to be accepted, all present NATO members need to give their consent in a unanimity vote, and Turkey and Hungary have not yet ratified their bids.
Sweden has a far bigger Kurdish diaspora than Finland does, and its discussions with Ankara on membership in NATO have been more contentious. Turkey has requested that Sweden break its ties with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is considered to be a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States of America, and the European Union. In response, Sweden passed a constitutional change that gives the country the authority to enact more stringent anti-terrorism measures, as Turkey had requested.
Both Sweden and Finland have repealed prohibitions on the sale of military equipment to Turkey, which were put in place following Ankara’s military involvement in Syria in 2019. These sanctions were implemented after Ankara’s military intervention in 2019. On the other hand, Turkey has been quite critical of Sweden over the recent demonstrations that have taken place in Stockholm. One of these rallies was led by a group of Kurdish supporters, and during this protest, they hanged an Erdogan effigy from a lamppost.
During his address, Mr. Erdogan made the remark that Sweden would be “shocked” by Turkey’s possible decision to “provide a different answer concerning Finland.” Mr. Erdogan said that his government had provided Sweden with a list including 120 names and requested that the Swedish government extradite people on the list who were deemed to be terrorists. If you do not extradite them, then I apologise for the inconvenience.
Since then, the Foreign Minister of Helsinki, Pekka Haavisto, has urged that talks should be put on hold since the “pressure” of the upcoming election in Turkey has prompted debates to become “hot” inside Turkey. Haavisto also suggested that negotiations should be halted. The envoy also emphasised that his nation should join at the same time as Sweden. He seemed to be walking back on his previous comment that Finland may be compelled to join without its Nordic neighbour, so it’s possible that he was just changing his mind.
The words made by the President have triggered a wave of alarm across the Nordic area, with many people expressing doubts about the reliability of Turkey’s top leadership. Some people have even argued that the move is a political trick aimed at bolstering support for the President in the impending elections. This is something that has been proposed by a few different people.
Whatever the reasons the President may have had for making his statements, the fact is that they have made the situation more difficult and complicated for both Sweden and Finland. Both nations have made tremendous efforts to enhance their ties with Turkey and NATO; nevertheless, in order for them to accomplish their objectives, they will now need to negotiate a diplomatic minefield. This is despite the fact that they have already achieved great progress in these areas.
Many people in the Nordic area continue to be dedicated to the concept that their countries should join NATO, despite the uncertainties. Both Sweden and Finland understand the significance of the alliance in maintaining peace and safety in their respective regions, and they are of the opinion that becoming members of NATO would provide them a higher level of both protection and influence in a world that is constantly shifting.
In a nutshell, it is imperative that you keep a careful eye on the scenario involving Turkey, Sweden, and Finland during the next several months. It remains to be seen if the words made by the President are just a bargaining strategy or whether they are a portent of things to come. Regardless, the circumstance has presented substantial difficulties for both Sweden and Finland, and the result of their applications to join NATO will be keenly monitored by the whole of the area.