“”The Chinese Communist regime, often with the aid of other governments, is systematically hunting down its political and religious exiles, no matter where in the world they seek refuge,” Nate Schenkkan and Sarah Cook reported in 2021 for The Diplomat.
“Fox Hunt is a sweeping bid by General Secretary Xi [Jinping] to target Chinese nationals whom he sees as threats and who live outside China, across the world,” FBI Director Christopher Wray charged in a 2020 speech. “We’re talking about political rivals, dissidents, and critics seeking to expose China’s extensive human rights violations. Hundreds of the Fox Hunt victims that they target live right here in the United States, and many are American citizens or green card holders.”
In April of this year, authorities arrested two men accused of helping establish a secret Chinese “police station” in New York’s Chinatown. “The PRC, through its repressive security apparatus, established a secret physical presence in New York City to monitor and intimidate dissidents and those critical of its government,” according to U.S. Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen.”
“Turkey’s government, it should be noted, cooperates with Beijing to silence Muslim Uyghur refugees who fled to Turkey, and it has sought assistance in muzzling its own dissidents. “Uzbekistani security services helped abduct a man from his apartment in Tashkent and return him to Turkey,” notes Freedom House.”
“On July 7, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to “ensure ratification” of Sweden’s application to join NATO in Turkey’s parliament, according to NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg.
This deal comes amid additional reports of acquiescence to Turkish demands, including Swedish support for the country’s European Union (E.U.) accession process and the U.S. working to provide Turkey with $20 billion worth of F-16s and 79 modernization kits for existing aircraft.
Joining NATO requires each of its 30 member states to vote in favor of Sweden’s accession, allowing Turkey to hold the process hostage.
“Turkey has a weak hand to play in all of this, but they’ve tried to play it to the point where they can extract the most out of this situation,” says James Ryan, director of research and Middle East programs at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “I really think there’s an understanding between Biden and Erdogan that it’s a quid pro quo, and probably the Swedish accession will go through and the sale will go through shortly thereafter.”
Since confirming their intention to join NATO over a year ago, Sweden has had to conform to Turkey’s complaints—which include claims that Sweden harbors member of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), issues with anti-Islam protests in Sweden, and the lack of arms exports—to gain its support for joining the alliance.
To accommodate these concerns, Sweden has passed a new stricter anti-terror law, extradited a supporter of the PKK, and reversed a ban on exporting military equipment to Turkey. “Sweden has amended its constitution, changed its laws, significantly expanded its counterterrorism cooperation against the PKK, and resumed arms exports to [Turkey],” said Stoltenberg in a press release.”
“The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on at least four Turkey-based entities it said violated U.S. export controls and helped Russia’s war effort, in the biggest U.S. enforcement action in Turkey since the invasion of Ukraine last year.
The designations – which included an electronics company and a technology trader alleged to have helped transfer “dual-use” goods – were part of a global sanctions package on more than 120 entities announced by the U.S. Treasury.
Washington and its allies imposed extensive sanctions on Russia after its invasion, but supply channels from Black Sea neighbour Turkey and other trading hubs, including Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates, have remained open.
A U.S. administration official told Reuters the sanctions targeted entities and people in Turkey’s maritime and trade sectors that were “primarily” Russia-owned or Russia-linked.
“It’s meant as a warning shot in the evolving phase of enforcing export controls,” the official said, requesting anonymity.”
“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 burning as “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 and the 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.”
“In Turkey and Syria, the high concentration of old, inflexible, concrete buildings, the lack of construction oversight, the Syrian civil war, and an ongoing cholera outbreak have left the region vulnerable to devastation. “You already had areas where people were displaced and living in temporary shelters,” said Traub. “In many ways, they’re already really compromised going into the disaster, and now they’re doubly displaced, and don’t have their support mechanisms.”
This is what happens when you end up on the wrong side of the disaster divide, which explains how unequal losses experienced by certain communities and countries following a natural disaster are chiefly due to the discrepancy of wealth and resources, limiting the ability to invest in the very things — strong buildings, weather prediction, rapid humanitarian response — that would prevent deaths. There’s a reason that 90 percent of disaster deaths between 1996 and 2015 occurred in low and middle-income nations, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction found. It’s not that rich countries are somehow exempt from extreme weather and geological events. It’s that the lack of wealth, and everything it can buy, is what makes a quake or a hurricane or a tornado disastrous, more than the sheer strength of a storm or how high a quake scores on the Richter scale.”