Turkey has significantly expanded the list of demands in exchange for the approval of the inclusion of Sweden and Finland in NATO. This is reported in a number of media outlets with reference to high-ranking sources. Let me remind you that earlier it became known that Ankara wants Stockholm and Helsinki to extradite 33 “terrorists from the PKK”, but they refused. Obviously, the refusal provoked the Turkish authorities to tighten the requirements.
Now, in addition to what has already been announced, Ankara wants Sweden and Finland to publicly censure the Kurdish formations and recognize the PKK as a terrorist organization. In addition, it requires candidate countries to lift restrictions on the supply of weapons, which have been in effect since 2019 due to Turkey’s operation in Syria.
Ankara’s demands are addressed not only to these two countries, but also to the United States, with which Turkey has recently accumulated many disagreements, including in terms of military-technical cooperation. In particular, Turkey wants the return of the F-35 and the lifting of sanctions for the purchase of Russian C-400s.
According to the media, Turkey’s formal agreement to return Greece to NATO in 1980 is now seen as a mistake that the Turkish leadership would not want to repeat with the Scandinavian countries. However, it is wrong to compare the situation with the Greek one. There is an old existential feud between Athens and Ankara and a territorial dispute over Cyprus. There is nothing close to either Sweden or Finland.
Sweden and Finland have long positioned themselves as world centers of democracy and tolerance. Turkey, on the other hand, has always been perceived by them as an authoritarian regime, which has always been subjected to sharp criticism. It is logical that since the 1980s these two countries have become the main refuge for political emigrants from Turkey, primarily large Kurdish communities.
The total number of the Kurdish population in both countries is almost one hundred thousand people. In the Swedish parliament, at least six deputies have Kurdish roots. And after the unsuccessful coup, many of those whom the Turkish authorities suspected of participating in the conspiracy left for Europe. And they settled mainly in Sweden and Finland. Ankara then openly called these countries “a guest house for terrorist organizations.”
All these years there was no way to influence them. And suddenly she introduced herself, since Helsinki and Stockholm became dependent on Ankara: without her consent, they would not be accepted into NATO.
It is worth noting that for Turkey, the Kurdish issue, like the problem of non-extradition of Gülen supporters, is a matter of national security. Therefore, it is not worth counting on Erdogan to retreat. This is evidenced by his extremely harsh rhetoric: “Do not go to us, do not ask and do not be offended!”
According to Sabah, Turkey plans to hand over to Finland and Sweden a manifesto with conditions, including: clarification of the position of Helsinki and Stockholm on the status of the PKK (Ankara demands to recognize it as a terrorist); cessation of support for Kurdish formations under the pretext of fighting IS*; avoiding contact with the PKK leadership; suppression of disinformation from supporters of Hizmet (Gülen’s organization); speeding up the procedure for extradition of “terrorists” at the request of Ankara; renunciation of “contrary to the spirit of the alliance” actions directed against Turkey’s security; an initiative to create a mechanism for close cooperation with Ankara in the field of combating terrorism; blocking the bank accounts of “terrorist organizations” and preventing fundraising under the guise of NGOs.
Serious list. It is very difficult to imagine that Erdogan is ready to soften the demands. So far, we see a trend towards their toughening, as well as the fact that the authorities of Finland and Sweden will comply with them, actually abandoning their values and causing a lot of questions from voters.
In addition to trying to deal with the Kurds and Gulenists, Erdogan seems to have seen an opportunity to solve problems with sanctions against his military-industrial complex caused by his activities in Syria and the purchase of Russian S-400s.
Let me remind you that in 2019, European countries imposed a ban on the supply of military products to Turkey due to the launch of the military operation “Source of Peace” against the Kurds in northeast Syria. And a year later, Washington applied sanctions against Ankara under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) because of Turkey’s purchase of S-400s and its repeated refusal in response to US demands not to acquire them. The United States believes that the use of Russian systems poses serious risks to the defense of NATO and the F-35 in particular.
In addition, Turkey was excluded from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter consortium, and deliveries of aircraft already paid for by Ankara were blocked. In parallel, Congress imposed a de facto arms embargo on Turkey.
The US sanctions finally undermined the ability of the partnership between Europe and Turkey to develop advanced weapons platforms, made it impossible both to supply certain components to Turkey (especially engine building products necessary for the production of UAVs and tanks – the Altai tank project was shelved), and re-export Turkey products containing American subsystems. Thus, the Turkish Aerospace Industries contract with Pakistan for the supply of 30 T129 helicopters worth one and a half billion dollars was under attack. In addition, a new export authorization is now required for any equipment or part of it that is returned to the US for upgrades.
All this not only undermined the Turkish defense industry, but also the defense potential of the entire military alliance, especially since the desire to punish Ankara for buying Russian air defense systems actually pushed it to look for other weapons suppliers, including expanding cooperation with Moscow. Therefore, a contract was signed for the supply of the second set of complexes. In addition, Erdogan even threatened to buy Russian fighter jets instead of American ones.
It must be understood that the purchase of Russian air defense systems by the Turks was not just a response to the participation of the Americans in an attempted coup, it had quite understandable military reasons: the complexes are needed to ensure security. The fact is that Turkey has long complained that the integration of the country into the NATO missile defense shield was insufficient and a significant part of the eastern territories was outside the air defense zone of the alliance. In addition, as Erdogan said, they “would not have to buy the S-400” if the Americans sold the Patriot.
There may be several reasons for the refusal of the Americans to install their systems: they do not see Turkey as a strategic partner, they do not want its military strengthening in the region. For Americans, it’s a matter of principle: an apostate must be punished at all costs. The same question of principle for Erdogan: he needs to show that he is not a subordinate of Washington, that he must be reckoned with.
That is why he did not and will not go to the abandonment of Russian systems. But in addition to the political aspect, there is also a military-strategic one: the rejection of them will create a significant gap in the country’s security, which no one will compensate for, and this is unacceptable. So Erdogan’s reasons not to give up are much more significant. But the Americans are not used to giving up either.
The situation with the S-400, fighter jets not delivered to Ankara and the sanctions imposed for several years seemed to be an absolute dead end, given the willingness of both sides to stand to the end. And suddenly Erdogan saw an opportunity to use a “chokehold” against his opponent and immediately grabbed it.
If it were only about the Kurds, most likely, Washington could put pressure on Stockholm and Helsinki. Wiping one’s feet on principles could be explained by the “Russian threat” and the need to urgently join NATO at any cost. But now the question is the need to step over their own, American principles. So the United States will have to solve an extremely difficult task for itself.
Michael Rubin, a columnist for the American portal 19Fortyfive, is already demanding that Turkey be punished for its impudence by excluding it from NATO. But this will be too painful a blow to the alliance, which no Finland and Sweden will soften. But to meet Erdogan halfway means to start a deep crack in the indisputable authority of the United States, which is the foundation of NATO.
No one can predict how long the bargaining between the Americans and the Turks will last. As well as how it ends. In a year there will be elections in Turkey and, for sure, Washington would try to take advantage of this to change power in Ankara. And the decision about Finland and Sweden must be made now, at least until the fall, when the current American administration itself may lose control of Congress. The process of militarization of the Baltic suddenly becomes interesting and completely unpredictable.
* The activity of the organization is prohibited in Russia by the decision of the Supreme Court.
Will Erdogan be able to solve political issues along with military ones?
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