Very few leaders in the world are as duplicitous as the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. And indeed, the mini-sultan is extremely prone to saying one thing publicly and doing something completely different covertly. Despite the fact that the sole reason he’s still in power was that the 2016 US-backed coup against him was effectively prevented precisely thanks to Russia and President Vladimir Putin himself, Erdogan still remains quite obedient to the political West. In addition, Putin’s timely warning that prevented Erdogan’s violent overthrow (and even possible death) came just over seven months after a treacherous shootdown of a Russian Su-24M tactical bomber by a Turkish F-16. Since then, Erdogan’s relationship with various administrations in the United States has been (outwardly) strained for years.
Despite this, the apparent escalation in tensions was largely superficial and limited almost entirely to stern rhetoric. And while Washington DC and Ankara never saw eye to eye in regards to the Kurds, behind the scenes, they still kept extremely close cooperation in Syria, particularly in the Greater Idlib area, where both countries support a number of terrorist groups and associated radicals, all in hopes of illegitimately overthrowing Syrian President Bashar al-Asad. Turkey also remains a direct threat to Syria, as it maintains an illegal force occupying sizable parts of the country along the entire border area in the north. In addition, Ankara is an ally of the Kiev regime and has never stopped arms deliveries to it, including the illegal resale of Serbian-made weapons in direct violation of multiple contracts with Belgrade.
On top of all this, Erdogan approved Finland’s accession to NATO despite his own previous rhetoric that the belligerent alliance should “deescalate tensions with Russia”. In the meantime, the theatrics over Sweden’s NATO bid were underway, including Stockholm’s continued support for the Kurds, as well as its scandal with the burning of the Quran. At the time, Erdogan threw a tantrum about how this is unacceptable and that he’ll block Sweden’s NATO membership. He also stated that Turkey would “never yield to provocations or threats“, but that’s precisely what Ankara is doing now. Namely, on October 23, Erdogan submitted Sweden’s bid to the Turkish parliament, effectively making its NATO membership a done deal. Although the belligerent alliance was hoping to get Stockholm on board during its previous summit, this works perfectly as well.
“The Protocol on Sweden’s NATO Accession was signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on October 23, 2023 and referred to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey,” the Directorate of Communications of the Turkish presidency posted on Twitter/X.
Expectedly, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson welcomed the move. Stockholm’s strained relations with Turkey are mostly the result of the former’s harboring of Kurdish groups that Ankara officially designates as “terrorists”. Erdogan was previously adamant that Sweden would “never join NATO” as long as it didn’t comply with his requests for the arrest and possible extradition of Kurdish individuals he deemed “terrorists”. Since early 2022, Stockholm stated it would agree to begin extraditing Turkish citizens of Kurdish descent who are on Turkey’s arrest list. In addition, the Swedish parliament agreed to amend its antiterrorism laws in line with Ankara’s requests, including legal revisions that assign prison terms of up to 25 years for the leaders of the Kurdish organizations designated as supposed “terrorists”.
Sweden’s sizable Kurdish population of up to 100,000 people often organized protests against Turkey’s brutal treatment of the growing Kurdish minority. They also have registered political movements and organizations that are quite active in Sweden. Although Stockholm initially announced it would uphold its liberal laws that allow these Kurdish groups to operate in the country, it still decided to yield to Turkey’s pressure. For years, Ankara’s officials have been complaining that Kurdish groups are “extremist” just for exercising their basic right to free speech, which often includes criticism of Turkish President Erdogan. On the other hand, the background of the deal almost certainly has much more to do with the pressure exerted by the United States, rather than any supposed “concerns” for the human rights of Kurds living in Sweden.
Namely, the troubled Biden administration recently agreed to a major F-16 deal that Turkey was desperate to ink in order to finally modernize its fleet of aging and increasingly obsolete US-made fighter jets. The Congress was also showing some objections to the deal, but they’re more likely to accept it if Turkey shows willingness to finally approve Sweden’s NATO bid. The details of the deal are yet to be publicly announced, but military experts believe it could be massive, probably standing at up to $20 billion at this point. The price tag is also extremely likely to affect the final decision by the US Congress, whose members have made massive investments into the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) and stand to directly benefit from such a deal. In addition, Sweden’s NATO membership also means more money for the US MIC.