NATO’s Nordic Expansion Stuck at Turkish Roadblock

Foreign Policy

Sweden and Finland have launched a new diplomatic offensive to convince Turkey to approve NATO membership for the two Nordic states after months of thorny negotiations turned what was supposed to be a smooth path to alliance expansion into a major diplomatic headache.

This was never supposed to be a ‘smooth path’ to alliance expansion. I had my doubts all along.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg traveled to Turkey this week to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and lobby him to move forward on the two countries’ accession. New Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson is expected to travel to Turkey next week to drive the message home.

Turkey is the last of NATO’s 30 members that has voiced opposition to both countries joining; 28 member states have already approved membership for Sweden and Finland, and Hungary has signaled that its parliament will greenlight the bids in the coming months. ( We’ll see if that happens?) New members require unanimous signoff from existing NATO members.

The Turkish government has said it wants Sweden and Finland to do more to crack down on individuals it considers security threats, including Kurdish militants and those allegedly involved in the country’s 2016 botched coup attempt, and it has focused most of its criticism on Stockholm.

Behind the scenes, U.S. and European diplomats are becoming increasingly frustrated with what they see as Turkish intransigence over an issue that should have been resolved months ago (In their opinion)

These two countries must take important steps on combatting terror because one of the biggest threats NATO is facing today is terrorism,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday after talks with Stoltenberg, adding that Turkey supported NATO expansion in theory. “It’s not possible to say right now that the two countries have completely implemented all aspects of the memorandum.”

“Our counter-terrorism work is a priority, and we take our commitments seriously,” a spokesperson for the Swedish foreign ministry told Foreign Policy in an email response. “We have communicated this to all allies, including Türkiye, and to the NATO Secretary General.”

The “terrorism” issue is of core concern to Erdogan ahead of next summer’s election, as he must court the vote of Turkish nationalists who are deeply opposed to Kurdish separatism. Many experts believe that, despite the recent diplomatic full-court press, Turkey will defer any decision on Nordic NATO membership until after its 2023 elections.

I have real doubts about the seriousness of Sweden’s counter terrorism work. Finland isn’t credible on terrorism issues either.

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