“Erdoğan, specifically, is raising new objections to the ascension of Finland and especially Sweden over what Turkey perceives as the latter’s lax policies toward Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and other groups that Turkey deems terrorist organizations. Most recently, Erdoğan has used a far-right politician’s burning of the Quran outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm to harden his opposition to Sweden’s NATO bid.
All NATO members must approve new ones, so Erdoğan’s opposition is effectively a veto. The Turkish president is not alone in declining support— Hungary’s Viktor Orbán is also holding out, for now — but Erdoğan is seen as the more legitimate roadblock. Erdoğan is flexing his foreign policy power and influence, and seeking to improve his domestic political position, especially ahead of difficult elections this May.
“Erdoğan thinks Turkey has leverage. Erdoğan thinks Turkey has justifiable grievances about Sweden’s policies. Erdoğan thinks he has an opportunity to use that leverage to address those grievances in a way that would be good for Turkey’s national interests. And, in addition to all of that, the entire issue is good for Erdoğan politically,” said Nicholas Danforth, editor at War on the Rocks and nonresident senior research fellow at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy.
Given all that, it’s not really surprising this spat over the Nordic countries’ NATO membership is dragging out. But this is also really not how the script was supposed to go — at least according to most of the rest of NATO.”
“In June, Sweden, Finland, and Turkey reached a memorandum of understanding to try to assuage some of Erdoğan’s concerns. Sweden and Finland lifted their arms blockades and agreed to a series of steps to cooperate with Turkey on terrorism-related issues.
But Erdoğan is pushing for more concessions, especially from Sweden. Some of the demands are wholly unrealistic, such as a request to extradite 130 purported “terrorists” to Turkey. As experts pointed out, Turkey operates under a pretty shaky definition of terrorism, and things that Erdoğan might consider terrorism look a lot more like freedom of speech in Sweden. Additionally, even in things like extradition, Sweden and Finland can’t just arbitrarily arrest people; it has to go through the judicial system, and the accused have due process.
Then, recent anti-Turkey protests in Stockholm and the burning of the Quran by one far-right protester have soured talks even further. Turkey condemned the burningas “anti-Islam,” with the Turkish Foreign Ministry saying that allowing such acts “under the guise of freedom of expression is completely unacceptable.” Turkey then scrapped talks with Swedish officials.
Sweden also condemned the act and the protests (which were actually anti-NATO protests). “This act plays directly into the hands of Russia and weakens our country, and it happened during the most serious security situation since the Second World War,” said. Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström. (The book burner was reportedly funded by a journalist with Kremlin ties.) But, at the same time, Sweden said, the whole thing wasn’t actually against Swedish law, even if they were angry about it, too.”
“Sweden and Finland are still trying to work something out, with Sweden introducing a law Thursday that would ban certain activities that could support terrorist organizations. Washington and Brussels are increasingly annoyed, with some leaders being pretty vocal about Turkey’s disloyalty. Congress has said Ankara will not get American-made F-16s (more on that later) unless it approves the NATO bids. More people are also saying that maybe NATO should just kick Turkey out (no more on that because, while it’s noteworthy politicians are even talking about it, experts said it’s not realistic andthe mechanisms to do so are pretty fuzzy). Turkey, meanwhile, has basically said talks are meaningless in the current climate, though it floated the possibility of backing Finland for NATO, just not Sweden — something Finland immediately rejected, as the two Nordic countries are very close, and they purposely sought a joint bid.
And the standoff may stay this way, at least until May — which is when Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party are facing a difficult election.”
“Erdoğan’s obstinance is causing real frustration in Washington and throughout European capitals. This is not exactly new; even before Erdoğan, Turkey was always something of a NATO misfit — incredibly useful to the alliance because of its unique position, but also a power whose interests and perspectives did not always align with the rest of the alliance members.”