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Finland and Sweden want to join NATO: Why is Turkey blocking?


Finland and Sweden want to join NATO, but Turkey is blocking it - why? How does Putin react to the enlargement plans - and what do they mean for Europe? Assessments by political scientist Carlo Masala.

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Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General:

"I wholeheartedly welcome Finland's and Sweden's applications to join NATO."

It was a historic week for NATO.

On Wednesday, Finland and Sweden officially submitted their application to join the military alliance – as members they would receive support from the alliance partners in the event of an attack.

The two countries are primarily concerned with protection from Russia.

The threat situation in Finland is more pronounced than in Sweden: the common border with Russia is 1,340 kilometers long.

Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland: »Our most important task in NATO is to defend our own country, our own region, but also to ensure that the entire Nordic region is safe.

It is also very important that Sweden takes the decisions with us so that both countries can contribute a lot to the security of the entire Nordic Baltic Sea region.«

The Ukraine war is changing the security architecture of the western world: How is Russia reacting?

What does NATO's northern expansion mean for Europe?

But wait a minute: Finland and Sweden have not yet arrived in NATO - all 30 NATO member states have to agree for this - and one country is currently standing in the way: Turkey.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is bothered by Sweden's foreign policy stance, including on Kurdish organizations - and is making a specific demand.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President Turkey: »Sweden's recent actions... we asked them to send back 30 terrorists, they said no.

So you don't want to give us back terrorists, but you're asking us for NATO membership?”

Carlo Masala, political scientist: "Turkey is demanding, and that is the only demand that is currently on the table, the extradition of 30 - I don't know now whether they are Kurds or Turks who have asylum in Sweden - to Turkey , because Turkey wants to put those in Turkey on trial.

It's mainly about the PKK, it's about the Gülen movement, i.e. the movement that Erdoğan accuses of being instrumental in the attempted coup in 2016.

Turkey wants to extradite them.

Other things also play a role in the background.

The point is that Sweden has issued an export ban on arms to Turkey since 2019 due to Turkish behavior in Syria.

Turkey certainly wants that off the table as well.«

Erdoğan also wants concessions from the US: a binding guarantee that Turkey can buy F16 fighter jets from Washington.

All this is slowing down NATO expansion.

That is why Western European countries are giving the Scandinavians security guarantees - for the delicate transition phase.

Carlo Masala, political scientist: "And of course there is the theoretical danger that precisely in this process today, the application submitted, by the time X when the last national parliament has ratified it, the Russian Federation could then intervene militarily.

And then Sweden and Finland are about the same as Ukraine.

Namely: Lots of statements about how much they would help Ukraine, but no hard security guarantees.«

Could Russia Really Consider Intervention?

A few weeks ago Moscow was still reacting alarmistically to the possible NATO expansion, but now the Kremlin is deliberately relaxed - with one big but.

Vladimir Putin, President of Russia: »The expansion of these countries does not pose a direct threat to us. But the expansion of military infrastructure in this area would certainly provoke our reaction.

What will the answer look like?

We shall see what threats are created for us.«

Carlo Masala, political scientist: "What Putin means is ultimately: If Sweden or Finland become a member of NATO, and NATO then stationed headquarters or strategic nuclear weapons in both states, then Russia would feel so provoked that it would feel compelled would take countermeasures.

None of us know what these measures look like.

I don't think it will be as part of an attempt at military intervention.

But maybe moving units closer to the Finnish border, for example, moving medium-long-range missile systems closer to Sweden -- all that kind of technical stuff that's supposed to end up threatening Sweden and Finland."

NATO's northern expansion would probably change little for the current war in Ukraine, but it could mean long-term advantages for security in Europe.

Carlo Masala, political scientist: »One advantage is that this is a long-standing expansion of NATO, in which there are members who come to NATO who have highly professional military personnel, who are well equipped and experienced.

That's an added plus for the NATO capability, which comes with it.

The second advantage for Europe is that the Baltic Sea will become a NATO internal sea.

If you look at the geography of the Baltic Sea and say the Finns and Swedes will join NATO, then every Baltic Sea country is a NATO member except for this small enclave of Kaliningrad.

From a military point of view, that is an incredible plus for planning and implementation with a view to Russian activities in the Baltic Sea.«

Last but not least, the Baltic States, which feel particularly threatened by Russia, could be defended from Swedish and Finnish territory.

Almost all European countries would then be both EU and NATO members.

For this, however, the Turkish veto must be taken off the table – a diplomatic solution seems possible.

In any case, Sweden is already planning its future in NATO.

Magdalena Andersson, Prime Minister of Sweden:

»Sweden is also looking forward to cooperation with Turkey within the framework of NATO.

This cooperation can become a new and important part of our bilateral relationship.«

Source: spiegel

All news articles on 2022-05-21

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