Turkey again spikes wheels of Sweden’s Nato bid

Turkey again spikes wheels of Sweden’s Nato bid
No can do: Erdogan, pictured during a virtual G20 Leaders' Summit on November 22, does not yet have good news on Nato for Sweden. / Turkish Presidency
By bne IntelIiNews November 23, 2023

Turkey has again spiked the wheels of Sweden’s bid to join Nato.

Ankara has informed the transatlantic defence bloc that the Turkish parliament’s ratification of the application will not be concluded in time to allow Sweden’s accession ceremony to take place at a meeting of Nato foreign ministers on November 27-28, Reuters, on November 22, quoted two sources familiar with the matter as saying.

Back on November 8, bne IntelliNews wrote how Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had given himself ample room to make more mischief in blocking Sweden’s bid to join the Western defence alliance. He now appears to be making use of that prepared space for manoeuvre. Erdogan is pushing for some payoffs from Nato countries in return for clearing the way for the Swedish application (although there is one other Nato member, Hungary, that is also yet to ratify the proposed membership, Turkey is widely seen as the main roadblock), but it appears he is yet to secure the rewards he is after.

What those demanded payoffs are is uncertain but, for instance, Turkey is yet to get the green light from the US to acquire F-16 fighter jets and Berlin is standing in the way of a Turkish purchase of Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft. Defence purchases Ankara has made from the Kremlin, Turkey’s military activities in Syria and Erdogan’s disregard for basic human rights, along with his backing of Hamas as “freedom fighters” amid the ongoing Gaza crisis, are among the reasons why Nato countries are reluctant to authorise major defence deals with the Turks.

Ankara maintains that it is yet to accept Sweden’s Nato application because Stockholm has not done enough to counter the activities of Kurdish individuals in Sweden that Erdogan officials claim pose a “terrorist” threat to Turkey, but this explanation is widely dismissed by analysts as a distraction.

On November 22, in an opinion piece in The National Interest headlined “Turkey Holds NATO to Ransom”, Robert Ellis, an international advisor at the nonpartisan Research Institute for European and American Studies in Athens, wrote: “In the Middle Ages, holding a knight to ransom was standard practice on the battlefield; it is still routine in international relations today.”

Ellis concluded that the Turkish parliamentary ratification of Sweden’s bid for a place in Nato would likely come through if the US Congress got out of the way of the F-16 sale to Turkey, though he observed that the issue of Sweden’s approach to the individuals pursued for “terrorist” activities by Turkey does have some real importance, writing that “Turkey still has a bone to pick with Sweden. Turkey initially demanded the extradition of eleven PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] members and ten Gulenists from Sweden, but after the Madrid [Nato] summit [in June], the number ballooned to seventy-three. After an effigy of Erdogan was strung up outside Stockholm town hall in January this year, Erdogan increased the number to 130.”