The conflict within the NATO over Sweden and Finland’s membership is continuing. On May 18, both countries’ ambassadors in Brussels have presented their official letters to NATO, applying for membership. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg received their letters.
But Turkey vetoed their membership from day one: The North Atlantic Council gathered on level of permanent representatives to accept the application and set negotiations in motion. But the Turkish representative vetoed the acceptance. Turkey’s step has thus blocked the beginning of technical and procedural meetings between NATO and the two countries.
Turkey’s President Erdoğan reiterated his objection on May 19. Erdoğan spoke on the anniversary of the beginning of the Turkish war of liberation, 1919.
The Turkish President stated the following:
“Now, this Sweden and Finland are countries that harbor terror groups from our country on their soil. They are providing that kind of hospitality to the PKK, the YPG, they will provide such funds of financial support to them…We told it to them directly: “NATO is a security alliance, we cannot accept that terror organizations take part in the security alliance’.”
The President continued:
“In the past, some have entered the alliance. There is Germany, there is France. Greece and France had become members and then left the alliance. Unfortunately, Turkey’s government at that time has let them pass and they could return to NATO. They returned, and now we see what happened: For example, the United States has established a military base in Dedeağaç (Greek: Aleksandrupoli). And the Fethullah Gulen Terror Organization’s members travel via Greece to Europe. Meanwhile, the Europeans ignore the list of terror members we have given them, and they continue to protect these. And now they tell us: ‘What are your demands, tell us these and we will demand it from Sweden and Finland’. Well, we do not think to fall into the same trap two times.
We have gone through that with Greece. And we know that in Sweden and Finland, they will present the same show. Sorry. In NATO, unanimity is necessary. If one country says ‘No’, than a candidate cannot become member.”
“We will continue our policy”
The President concluded:
“We will continue our policy decidedly and will say ‘No’ to Sweden and Finland’s entry into NATO. We have told this to the concerning colleagues, and we will continue our path accordingly.”
While the Turkish President’s statements were an outright rejection, other members of the government displayed a more bargaining tone: Meeting US Secretary of State Blinken on May 18, Turkish Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu said:
“There are security threats that we want to have dealt with in the candidate countries. A country that wants to become member of the alliance cannot not pose a threat to a member. We need security guarantees from Finland and especially Sweden that they will not provide weapon to the YPG, the Syrian arm of the PKK.”
Is Sweden an ally or a threat?
Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun meanwhile wrote an article, stating that “in military operations against the PKK, Swedish anti-tank missiles of the type AT-4 have been confiscated. Similarly, PKK militants are recruiting members in Sweden, organizing financial resources for terror activities and pursuing propaganda. All this has caused our nation to ask how far this future NATO member is a true ally of our country. As long as these justified concerns are not satisfied, Sweden’s NATO membership will not be possible. If you want the second biggest army of NATO to defend you in case of an attack, you will have to accept this reality”.
Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın meanwhile was also active in diplomacy, making calls with his counterparts in Germany, Sweden, Finland, Britain and the US.
The Turkish government blames espacially Sweden for supporting the PKK and its Syrian arm, the YPG. But the main supporter of the YPG are the United States, which has military presence in the East of the Euphrates and sponsors the YPG with billions of dollars.
The debate about Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership is a proxy between Turkey and the US indeed.