When Finland and Sweden announced their intention to join the NATO alliance, the western world was quick to rejoice. Headlines proclaimed that President Putin was not only losing the war in Ukraine, but he had started the one fire he was desperately aiming to extinguish: expansion of NATO close to the Russian border.
Then came news from Turkey’s President Erdogan that Turkey planned to object to the admission of Finland and Sweden. Since NATO rules require 100% agreement prior to the addition of new members, Turkey’s veto could scuttle Finland’s and Sweden’s admission.
What’s the deal? What could Turkey possibly have against the entry of two nations as seemingly harmless (to them) as Finland and Sweden?
As usual in matters of international diplomacy, there are multiple possible answers. Among them are the following:
- President Erdogan claims that Finland and Sweden harbor “terrorists” in the form of members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (aka the PKK). Members of the PKK have long been seeking an independent nation for ethnic Kurds—a goal strongly opposed by Erdogan. He wants Finland and Sweden to return the PKK “terrorists” who are residing in those countries. See https://www.cnn.com/2022/05/18/europe/turkey-nato-finland-sweden-cmd-intl/index.html What makes this claim less than compelling is the fact that members of the PKK have been active in Germany for years, while Germany and Turkey have remained NATO members. See Kurds in Germany – Wikipedia
- President Erdogan might feel like other members nations have been taking Turkey for granted, despite its critical geographical location (adjacent to Syria, Georgia, and Bulgaria; just across the Black Sea from Ukraine). Why not ask for some monetary, military, and political sweeteners before saying yes to the deal? See https://www.cnbc.com/2022/05/17/will-turkey-block-nato-membership-for-sweden-and-finland.html
- President Erdogan, like ex-President Donald Trump, might see some benefit to snuggling up to President Putin. Perhaps he sees some benefit in playing both sides of this fence. See https://www.cnn.com/2022/05/16/opinions/putin-allies-orban-erdogan-europe-andelman/index.html
Most international news analysts seem to believe that Turkey will eventually cave after extracting concessions that will allow President Erdogan to claim victory for his country. Spirited Reasoners hope so. They also hope that President Biden is correct when he recently predicted, “I think we’re gonna be okay.”