Analysis by Robert Stone
Sweden and Finland’s aspirations to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have encountered an obstacle in the form of Turkey’s objections. Turkey, a current member of NATO, holds veto powers over new accessions and has put a halt to the accession talks. The reason for Turkey’s opposition is rooted in its belief that Sweden, in particular, harbors militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group that is designated as a terrorist organization in Turkey, the United States, Europe, and Sweden.
In an agreement reached in Madrid last June, Finland and Sweden pledged to increase their efforts in fighting terrorism, including intensifying work on the extradition and deportation of suspected militants. However, some expulsions have been blocked by Swedish courts, leading to tensions between the two countries.
Turkey’s stance on NATO accession for Sweden and Finland may be influenced by the upcoming elections in May. Some analysts suggest that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan may be using the issue to distract voters from economic issues and to boost his image as a strong international leader. Others speculate that he may be leveraging the issue as part of a deal with the United States, with whom relations have been strained over Turkey’s conflict with Kurdish militants in Syria, who have the support of the US.
Sweden and Finland, traditionally neutral in military affairs, have reevaluated their stance in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both countries share a border with Russia and see NATO membership as crucial for their security. The alliance also sees the inclusion of these nations as valuable, as they possess strong militaries and would serve to plug a gap in NATO’s front line against Russia, as well as allowing for projection of power in the Baltic region.
The future of Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO remains uncertain, as Turkey’s objections and national security concerns may prove difficult to overcome. Some have raised the possibility of Finland joining without Sweden, but the two nations have emphasized their preference for joint membership. Additionally, it is unlikely that NATO would expel Turkey, as it is considered a vital strategic ally. The accession process is expected to remain halted until after Turkey’s elections, and even then, progress may be slow.
The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author.
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