NATO would accept: how Sweden seeks a pass to the alliance

Sweden decided to convene a conference to collect donations from the international community for the needs of Turkey and Syria affected by the earthquake. The event in Brussels is scheduled for 16 March. The Turkish media consider this initiative an attempt to appease the intractable Ankara, which prevents Sweden and Finland from joining NATO. Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who visited Turkey the day before, tried to put pressure on the Turkish authorities. Whether Sweden and Finland will be able to get into NATO by the summit of the alliance, which will be held in the summer in Vilnius, Izvestia investigated.

A solid bribe

“We are going to organize a donor conference to be held on March 16 here in Brussels, we are doing this together with the European Commission,” Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said before the meeting of EU foreign ministers.

According to him, the main goal of the event is to gather additional support for the victims of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. “We expect many people to take part in it. We also hope that we can raise as much money as possible for people from these countries,” the Swedish minister summed up.

The Turkish media supported the impulse of Stockholm, but considered it not entirely disinterested. “Sweden is using the tragedy in Turkey to join NATO,” the Cumhuriyet newspaper wrote.

Against this background, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg flew to Ankara. The main topic for both visits was the membership of Sweden and Finland in the North Atlantic Alliance. During his trip, Stoltenberg especially emphasized the importance of the fact that “Stockholm and Helsinki showed solidarity after the earthquake in Turkey.”

Ankara thanked them, but made it clear that Stockholm’s initiative does not mean an early membership in the alliance. At a press conference, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu explained that Ankara could “assess the process of Finland’s accession to NATO separately from Sweden.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Photo: Global Look Press/IMAGO/Turkish presidency apaima

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has previously said that “Sweden will be shocked that we can make a different decision regarding Finland’s NATO bid.” However, Stoltenberg also made it clear that he did not intend to give up and “at this stage, both applications can be approved – both Helsinki and Stockholm.”

“We don’t know if this “this stage” that the head of the alliance spoke about has come, but he had a “solid bribe” in his pocket, writes a Turkish edition about this. The newspaper does not rule out that this event implies an entry fee from Stockholm to NATO. In addition, Sweden will be actively involved in cooperation with the alliance: with the money raised following the conference, the North Atlantic bloc plans to restore the earthquake-affected zone in Turkey.

Following the Secretary General of the alliance, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken flew into the country. “It looks like the US administration is pressuring Turkey to get its approval to admit Sweden and Finland to NATO, thus turning a tragedy into an opportunity. Stoltenberg’s “donation conference for Turkey organized by Stockholm” by Stoltenberg undoubtedly means “carrot”. Let’s see what will become a “whip” in the hands of Blinken,” the Turkish media write.

The Secretary of State tried to convince Ankara that the speedy accession of Stockholm and Helsinki to the North Atlantic bloc would “increase the military power of the alliance,” and also made it clear to Turkey in every possible way that it was not worth delaying the ratification process any longer.

Good news from Ankara

Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO in May 2022. Initially, Turkey blocked the process of considering them, but at the end of June, Ankara, Helsinki and Stockholm signed a memorandum in the field of security.

Turkey demanded that countries “take important steps in the fight against terrorism” and extradite those suspected of having links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is considered terrorist in Ankara. Currently, only two countries out of 30 – Turkey and Hungary – have not ratified the applications.

Photo: AP Photo/Olivier Matthys

At the end of January, a scandal erupted between Ankara and Stockholm after Rasmus Paludan, one of the far-right politicians, burned the Koran near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. The Turkish authorities responded by harshly criticizing such actions. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that after that, Stockholm should not count on Ankara’s support on joining the alliance.

However, after Stoltenberg and Blinken’s recent visit to Ankara, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey would resume talks on Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership. According to him, the next trilateral meeting will be held soon in Brussels at the headquarters of the North Atlantic Alliance.

“This is a good message from Turkey,” the Swedish foreign minister responded.

Walking Together

At the same time, Turkey still makes it clear that they can “separate the processes of accession of Sweden and Finland.” However, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, noted that the two countries started this process together, so they want to complete it at the same time. “Very close military cooperation between Stockholm and Helsinki, which was observed even before joining NATO, will be very difficult if we are separated,” the prime minister explained.

Kristersson hopes Stockholm and Helsinki’s membership bids will be ratified in time for the NATO summit in Vilnius in July. Meanwhile, Finland is hinting that they would also like to join the North Atlantic bloc along with Sweden, but at the same time they are ready to join the alliance without waiting for Stockholm.

Finnish soldiers

Photo: REUTERS/Lehtikuva/Heikki Saukkomaa

In early April, parliamentary elections will be held in Finland, so now the authorities are trying to take active steps that are necessary for joining NATO. However, the prospects for Sweden are still bleak. As Cavusoglu noted, although Stockholm has changed its constitution and laws, no concrete steps have been taken to counter the financing of terrorism, propaganda and recruitment of terrorists.

Principled position

— Turkey will cope with the consequences of earthquakes for a long time to come, assistance will be relevant even after some time, but now the country needs it more than ever. I don’t see much point in holding a conference first and then deciding whether assistance will be provided or not. In my opinion, if states want to provide assistance, then let them help,” said Alina Sbitneva, a researcher at the Department of the Near and Post-Soviet East of the INION RAS, in an interview with Izvestia.

According to the political scientist, the country is tired of being a junior partner of the West, constantly proving that it deserves a supra-regional status.

– I think that Ankara will stand its ground to the last, she stated this at the talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The same Mevlut Cavusoglu voiced the day before. According to him, Turkey needs concrete steps and measures, it is ready to separately consider the application of Finland, but Sweden will have to work hard. As a result of negotiations with Anthony Blinken, it became clear that the United States once again persuaded Turkey to accept Sweden and Finland into NATO, the expert added.

However, Ankara is primarily guided by its own interests, believes Doctor of Political Sciences, Head of the Department of the Near and Post-Soviet East of the INION RAS Vladimir Avatkov.

– Turkey is not so simple and very cunning. What can you do to appease the intractable Ankara and eventually join NATO. The event, announced by the head of the Swedish Foreign Ministry, will take place more than a month after the terrible events that divided the life of Turkey and its citizens into before and after. When, in general, it is not so relevant, because help is urgently needed now. Especially against the backdrop of new earthquakes in Hatay. If it were not necessary for NATO, then the conference would not have been needed. Compassion is not about the modern West, the political scientist believes.

The expert draws special attention to the integrity shown by Turkey.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (right) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Photo: REUTERS/Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office

– This cherished and so long-awaited “yes” will not be pulled out of the Turks. At first, Stoltenberg courted the Turkish government: here are the tent cities, and rescue teams, and our solidarity is NATO. This is all, of course, from a pure heart and a big soul, but the time has come to ratify the applications. Following him, Blinken noted that the supply of F-16s would be agreed, and $185 million would be allocated for restoration. In general, friends, count on the American helping hand and still do not forget to approve the entry of Helsinki and Stockholm, – said the Turkologist.

In his opinion, despite all the difficulties, Turkey resists pressure, demands respect for itself and bargains.

– The head of the Turkish Foreign Ministry asked not to link the deliveries of fighter jets with the ratification of applications – hinting that it is already somehow even ugly to openly buy Ankara’s national security. And since the Americans themselves started talking about the F-16, it would be a sin not to recall the F-35 program, from which Turkey was unilaterally excluded. This surprise cost Ankara $ 1.4 billion – it’s time to return them, they will be useful for internal affairs, the specialist added.

According to Avatkov, the dialogue came out interesting. According to him, Cavusoglu also raised the issue of the security of the southern borders of the country, referring to American support for terrorist groups in Syria, but he did not receive an intelligible answer. The expert noted that the American side is aware of Turkish concerns, but that’s all. As with the F-16, the sale is lobbied and supported, but no timeline yet, as congressional approval must be obtained.

According to the political scientist, Cavusoglu stressed that Turkey is not a player whose hands can be tied, moreover, it is high time to lift the sanctions against the country.

– At the joint press conference, Ankara defended itself as best it could: everything was to the point, moderately sharp and at the same time very intelligible. The United States is still blindly and stupidly sure that Sweden and Finland will soon officially join NATO. While the United States is waiting for Sweden and Finland to join, Ankara is waiting for the lifting of sanctions, the return of $1.4 billion in cash and the upcoming elections. Turkey is still trying to prove to the West that the world, like itself, has changed. She will no longer play Western games that are disadvantageous to her, in which she is far from being a leading player. Only in the USA, and in Europe, they still don’t hear it, – summed up the Turkologist.

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