Finland’s and Sweden’s aspirations to join NATO are in doubt as Turkey has renewed its objections to their membership bids.
Finnish diplomats met their Turkish counterparts in Ankara on Tuesday, according to local media. The meeting marked Helsinki’s latest diplomatic effort to persuade Ankara to accept its NATO bid. For the Atlantic alliance to grow, all members must agree.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed reservations about joining Finland and Sweden, accusing these countries of giving refuge to Kurdish groups that Ankara considers terrorists. Addressing parliament earlier this month, Erdogan said he would closely monitor commitments from Finland and Sweden to address Turkish concerns.
Erdogan said Turkey would not make concessions as a country that has been fighting terrorism for 40 years.
Earlier in October, the Turkish leader accused Stockholm of backtracking on its commitments to Ankara, saying Turkey’s enemies continued to operate freely in Sweden. Erdogan, however, said he was ready to meet newly elected Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson to discuss Turkish demands.
Huseyin Bagci, director of the Ankara Foreign Policy Institute, said Erdogan saw NATO enlargement as an opportunity.
“Tayyip Erdogan is trying to increase the influence of the Turkish negotiation process through this. Maybe in the end he will say yes, but now he has to take something. It is a calculated act but if [it is] a miscalculation, we will have to see that,” Bagci said.
According to reports, Sweden has made many concessions on security. Ankara is asking for the extradition of dozens of people, including Swedish nationals wanted for terrorist offences.
Analyst Ilhan Uzgel of the Duvar news portal said concessions from Washington were Erdogan’s main objective.
“Finland and Sweden’s membership offer, he’s trying to use those two bargaining chips to get something from the West,” Uzgel said. “It can either be a meeting with [U.S. President Joe] Biden; it may be the purchase of F-16 fighter jets from the United States, [or] external support during the elections. Something that will help Erdogan put himself in a better position ahead of the election.”
Erdogan is languishing in most opinion polls ahead of the elections Turkey is due to hold by June 2023. Analyst Uzgel said Erdogan would be reluctant to give up his influence on NATO ahead of the June elections.
“I guess he’s going to use it until the election. It’s leverage he needs right now, unless he gets something big enough from the United States,” he said. Uzgel. “He’s completely and utterly focused on winning the election because he’s losing support domestically. So he has to win the election, so he’s going to do whatever it takes to stay in power domestically or externally. .”
Analysts say Erdogan will also be aware that standing up to NATO and, in particular, the United States plays well among his religious and nationalist base. This means that Finland and Sweden could wait a long time before they can join the alliance.