Update: May 22, 2022 4:07 p.m. STI
By John Solomou
Nicosia [Cyprus] May 22 (ANI): Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, acting on the orders of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at least temporarily spoiled what would have been the biggest historic shift in European security in decades, stalling last Wednesday the start of NATO accession talks with Finland and Sweden. Erdogan dashed hopes for a quick integration of the two Nordic countries, neutral for many decades, into the Alliance.
Turkey has blocked the start of membership talks, saying the two Nordic countries harbor PKK terrorists and supporters of the Gülen movement, which Ankara accuses of masterminding the 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan, as well as imposing arms export restrictions. on Ankara.
Although each of the 30 NATO member countries has a potential veto over who can join the Alliance, since all decisions within NATO are made by consensus, exercising a veto such a crucial moment for the West will be an act of extreme precariousness by Erdogan and could lead to the isolation of Turkey.
US President Joe Biden had a joint meeting at the White House on Thursday with Finnish President Sauli Niisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson.
Biden said the two countries would bolster NATO with their “strong democracies” rather than their military capabilities and said Finland and Sweden had the “total, total and complete support” of the United States in their bid to become members of NATO”.
Biden added that even if Turkey tries to block their membership, the United States will support them against Russia. US President strongly disagrees with Erdogan’s actions in Syria and Turkey’s aggressive drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, bullying of Greece and Cyprus as well as Turkey’s refusal to implement Western imposed sanctions to Russia.
Responding to a question, Biden said he had no plans to discuss NATO membership with President Erdogan or visit Turkey at this time.
It should be noted that Turkey is an eccentric member of the Alliance, which has often argued with other countries, including Greece and France, and has repeatedly refused to participate in joint exercises and even threatened to leave the Alliance.
A major sticking point between Ankara and NATO and the United States is Turkey’s controversial 2019 purchase of the Russian S-400 mobile surface-to-air missile system, believed to pose a risk to NATO and the United States. -35. program.
In response, the United States cut Turkey off from the F-35 aircraft development program, banned all U.S. export licenses to Turkish defense industries, and imposed an asset freeze on Ismail Demir, the president of Turkish defense industries. Turkish defence, and other officers.
It should be noted that Erdogan’s threat to block Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO membership allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin to tone down the threatening statements he made when first announcing NATO. the intention of these two Nordic countries to join the Alliance.
So although Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov described Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership as a “serious mistake with far-reaching consequences”, President Vladimir Putin later said that their candidacy for NATO posed no direct threat to Russia.
With Turkey having NATO’s second army, which thanks to its strategic position controls the entrance to the Black Sea, Erdogan decided that he could maintain Ankara’s economic and other ties with Moscow and avoid impose on Russia the sanctions decided by the West. He called the Russian invasion of Ukraine unacceptable but took no action that would harm Moscow.
In addition, he offered to play the role of mediator between Moscow and Ukraine (to which it supplied its Bayraktar drones used against the Russian army) and hosted a meeting in Antalya which, however, produced no results.
The Turkish government has not closed the country’s airspace to Russian planes and last week it was announced that 450 charter flights between Russia and Turkey would be added weekly.
Last year, about 4.7 million Russian tourists vacationed in Turkey, but this year the number will be smaller as ordinary Russians, due to the sanctions, have less money to spend on vacation.
Turkey is one of the few countries that has decided to accept the Russian credit card Mir in hotels and its use in ATMs, as well as the possibility of making payments in rubles and liras.
In addition, Turkey continued to be supplied with Russian gas via the TurkStream gas pipeline, which also serves as an alternative route for Russian gas to Southern Europe via the Black Sea.
He has also offered refuge to Russian oligarchs’ luxury yachts that are moored in marinas along Turkey’s southern coast and encouraged wealthy Russians to buy homes. The percentage of Russians buying property in Turkey rose from 9.7% to 17.7% last March. Russians who buy property worth $400,000 can also obtain Turkish citizenship.
Thus, Turkey is probably the only country that benefits economically from the war in Ukraine.
As the Turkish economy is going through very difficult times, with the Turkish currency losing around 54% of its value against the dollar while inflation soars to 70%, Erdogan must be thinking that he must exploit for the benefit of the Turkey all the opportunities offered by Russia’s isolation from all other Western countries.
Facing a tough election next year, Turkey’s idiosyncratic president is trying to boost his popularity among Turkey’s nationalists and Islamists, showing them that by continuing to do business with Russia, he is a leader who dares ignore the decisions of the West Country. Moreover, by temporarily blocking, at least, the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO, he will perhaps succeed in extracting some concessions from them on the question of their support for the PKK and in getting them to lift their restrictions. on arms exports to Turkey, which he can then present to the Turkish public as major successes. (ANI)