Would Turkey prevent Sweden and Finland from joining NATO?

ANKARA (Parliament Politics Magazine) – The process for application of NATO membership was started earlier this month by Finland and Sweden despite Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s stated opposition.

As Russia’s war on Ukraine rages, Ankara is out of sync with the rest of the alliance’s member states, who support NATO expansion.

If the previously neutral Nordic states want to join the Washington-led group, all 30 members must unanimously vote in their favour, therefore Turkey could theoretically obstruct an application.

Turkey had all the rights to prevent Sweden and Finland from joining NATO, said Ahmet Erdi Ozturk, an associate professor of politics and international relations at London Metropolitan University.

However, taking such a stance would be costly, since NATO countries would view Turkey as a problem child in the future.

It was difficult to predict Turkey’s future status because it was largely determined by domestic political changes. They needed to remember that Erdogan was making those policy reforms in order to win the next election, Ozturk remarked.

Former Turkish ambassador to Australia, Ireland, Belgium and Oman, Murat Ersavci told Al Jazeera that Ankara was not in opposition to Sweden and Finland joining the EU outright, but had some reservations.

In reference to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara deems a terrorist organisation, Erdogan has accused Finland and Sweden of having a “open attitude towards terrorist organisations.”

Turkey also claims that the two Nordic nations have neglected to extradite its wanted suspects.

Ankara is also upset over Sweden’s decision to halt arms sales in 2019.

‘Nothing to do with appeasing Russia,’ 

One of Russia’s reasons for invading Ukraine was to stop the expansion. Finland and Sweden have been threatened by Moscow with a loosely phrased “reaction” since their ambitions of joining NATO were made clear.

“Turkish doubts have nothing to do with Russian appeasement,” Ersavci explained.

He went on to say that Turkey has always supported NATO expansion.

As witnessed with the Baltic nations, Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and even Georgia, Turkey had always been strongly in favour of NATO enlargement. However, the situation has changed recently, he added. 

In Turkey, there was a strong public view that Sweden was supporting Turkey’s enemies, and that had put enormous pressure on the administration, Ersavci added.

He did, however, suggest that Ankara should have pursued a private diplomatic process to settle its concerns before going public and causing a global uproar.

The alliance is presently in a precarious situation.

On the one hand, Finland, Sweden and the vast majority of member states want the applications to be processed quickly. Turkey, on the other hand, looks to be focused on delaying the process for the sake of national interests, at least briefly.

Turkey remains a reasonably prominent member within NATO, said the lecturer and co-director of American University’s Transatlantic Policy Center, Garret J Martin.

Its geopolitical position made it a very valuable participant, and as NATO’s second largest standing military force behind the US, it was a potential contribution to the alliance’s collective defence, he added.

Ashton Perry

Ashton Perry is a former Birmingham BSc graduate professional with six years critical writing experience. With specilisations in journalism focussed writing on climate change, politics, buisness and other news. A passionate supporter of environmentalism and media freedom, Ashton works to provide everyone with unbiased news.