Turkey’s security concerns in the security alliance
Turkey opposes Sweden and Finland’s bid for NATO membership, arguing that any new NATO bidder must recognize Turkey’s security concerns. Ankara claims that Finland and, to a greater extent, Sweden have supported PKK militias and organizations for years on their soil, pointing out that the Nordic countries have also applied an arms embargo on Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government wants them to stop supporting the PKK, which is internationally recognized as a terrorist organization, and end the arms ban on NATO member Turkey.
The Turkish government demands that these two countries publicly denounce not only the PKK but also its affiliates before being allowed to join the security alliance. In fact, Ankara’s reservations come from past regrets. Turkey accepted Greece’s return to NATO in the 1980s after the 1974 war over Cyprus, which is clearly seen today as a vital mistake. Thus, Turkish officials do not want to repeat the same mistake since Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration have emerged as major obstacles, blocking Turkey’s accession to the European Union and rejecting a United Nations vote on a plan unification of the island. From now on, what Turkey expects from Sweden and Finland is that they undertake to show solidarity with Ankara against the PKK.
On the other hand, there are also other problems, such as the exclusion from the F-35 program. Although Turkey makes it clear that it does not negotiate on other issues, this objection could open the door to its reinstatement in the program. Besides, Ankara also wants new F-16s from the United States and upgrade kits from its existing fleet. Therefore, Turkey’s objection could encourage all these discussions and lay new foundations for dialogue.
The war and its reflection
The 30 members of NATO must agree to admit new candidates. Turkey may block Sweden and Finland from joining, which raises eyebrows in the alliance given that since the Russian occupation of Ukraine, the West has become a fierce bloc. However, I myself have doubts about approving such a request under these circumstances. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has already opposed the deployment of troops in these countries, could see it as a provocation. Russia hit Ukraine on the basis of kyiv’s possible NATO membership; so who can guarantee that Moscow will not hit Stockholm or Helsinki during the negotiation process? In my opinion, the time is not right. The hot war zone in Ukraine should at least calm down before the application process continues. But that’s my opinion. Ankara does not base its objection on the situation in Ukraine or on Russia’s position. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said: “Our position is perfectly clear and open. It’s not a threat, not a negotiation, we try to take advantage of our interests.
What the minister said is important. Sweden should lift the arms embargo against Turkey. Sinan Ülgen, a former diplomat and director of the Center for Economic Studies and Foreign Policy (EDAM), an Istanbul-based think tank, says it is unreasonable for a NATO country to impose an arms embargo to another ally within the same alliance.
It is also natural to ask Sweden in particular to be more active against the PKK, which Turkey has been fighting for 40 years, during which it has claimed the lives of thousands of people through acts of terrorism.
So if there is a ground for dialogue, these issues can be discussed and overcome. Ankara is not inherently opposed to the membership of Sweden and Finland. He just wants the alliance to focus on Turkey and understand its security concerns.