What is Erdogan really looking for in the Turkish bargain for Finland-Sweden NATO membership

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has chosen to be the “village madman” in NATO on the issue of Finland and Sweden, writes Politico in an article.

The legislatures of all 30 members, including Turkey, must approve the two nations ‘accession to the alliance, putting Erdogan first as the person who can derail the two countries’ historic accessions. But why is it choosing to compete with the West right now, especially when Turkey is actively helping Ukraine to kill Russian invaders?

NatSec Daily experts spoke of three main reasons: 1) the complaint about Sweden’s ties with the Kurds, 2) Erdogan’s attempt to stay in power amid an economic downturn, and 3) the signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin that Ankara and Moscow can still be friends.

Let’s start with the Kurds: Sweden has been very open about its support for Western-backed Kurdish-led forces fighting ISIS in Syria. Even with the terrorist group disbanded, Stockholm has maintained ties with Kurdish fighters that Turkey considers terrorists.

In addition, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Tuesday that neither Sweden nor Finland had extradited any suspects that Ankara believed belonged to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or was following the cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in and while he was an ally of Erdogan, he is now considered one of his biggest enemies inside and outside the country.

“Turkey really wants to set an example for Sweden,” said Soner Tsagaptai, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy. The message to Stockholm and other Western capitals, he continued, is “do not make ties with the Kurds permanent, do not make them strategic.”

Giran Ozcan, executive director of the Kurdish Peace Institute in Washington, D.C., described Erdogan’s arguments about Sweden and the Kurds as “false,” adding that he “gave a gift to a colleague who is at war in Moscow.”

Erdogan also has his eyes on domestic politics. Inflation in Turkey is soaring in the triple digits, sinking deeper into the crisis an already disintegrated economy. This creates problems for the president in the run-up to the 2023 elections, especially as the opposition rallies against him.

As Politico points out, one way to regain the reins is to strike at the Kurds at the same time, while drawing concessions from Sweden, Finland and potentially other NATO allies, including the United States. Two possible targets are for applicants to lift the arms embargo on Turkey and / or pressure the US to finally approve the sale of F-16 fighter jets that have stopped in Congress.

Even if these concessions are symbolic – say, Sweden promises to weaken its relationship with the Kurds over time – Erdogan’s friendliness in Turkey can be seen as a huge victory by the president himself. as a strong man who brings the West where he wants it when he wants it. Such coverage could give Erdogan the impetus he needs before voters go to the polls, even if the election is already said to have been rigged.

Then there is the issue of Russia. Erdogan and Putin are doing very well despite their main geopolitical differences, including the invasion of Ukraine. Maintaining this relationship requires a lot of surrender, and in this case, Erdogan could try to please Putin by making these moves towards Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids.

“Turkey appreciates its defense cooperation with Ukraine, but must also maintain friendly relations with Russia on tourism, energy and other factors that shape the domestic acceptance rating, especially given Turkey’s economic crisis and reduced support. to [το κόμμα του Ερντογάν] “Maintaining access to Russian-controlled airspace in northern Syria to strike Kurdish-led forces is also important,” said Liesel Hinds, a professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. he said.

Most people say that Erdogan will eventually back down after saying his views and getting something in return. On Wednesday, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the government was “confident” that Sweden and Finland would soon join NATO once they overcame the Turkish hurdle.

And speaking with President Joe Biden on Thursday, the leaders of Sweden and Finland said they would work with Turkey to address its concerns. Meanwhile, the Senate seems ready to strongly vote in favor of the two countries’ accession.

But some are not convinced that Erdogan and his team will back down so easily. “Turkish officials believe they are morally right when they express their opposition and they think they can take advantage of it. I do not think this is merely symbolic,” said Howard Eisenstadt of St. Louis University. Lawrence. “There may well be a way for Turkey to change its mind, but I’m afraid diplomats are overly optimistic about the obstacles to the agreement.”

Petros Kranias

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Source: Capital

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