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07/18/2023

Turkish experts on the latest developments between Türkiye, NATO, EU and Sweden

Turkish experts on the latest developments between Türkiye, NATO, EU and Sweden

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan agreed to submit Sweden’s NATO membership to the approval of the Turkish Grand National Assembly during the trilateral summit in Vilnius.

The joint statement after the summit on the evening of July 10 involves “Sweden’s steps to address Türkiye’s concerns” like intensifying the fight against the terrorist organization PKK and even making amendments in related laws. “Sweden once again emphasizes that it will not support the YPG/PYD and the organization defined as FETÖ in Türkiye”, says the statement.

According to the statement, “Special Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism” will be established for the first time within NATO.

Furthermore, it was declared that Sweden would actively support Türkiye’s membership process to the European Union including the modernization of the Customs Union agreement and visa liberalization between the EU and Türkiye.

Retired Brigadier General Prof. Dr. Fahri Erenel, Retired Staff Colonel İhsan Sefa, Retired Gendarmerie Major Doç. Dr. Ali Fuat Gökçe, Prof. Dr. Hasan Ünal, Prof. Dr. Hasan Köni, and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Deniz Tansi evaluated the latest developments between Türkiye and NATO to United World International.

The determining impact of the economy

Retired Brigadier General Prof. Dr. Fahri Erenel drew attention to the following points:

“Türkiye’s economic conditions were decisive in making this decision because due to economic difficulties, the Turkish government had a tendency for a while to turn a new page with the US. Turkish navy’s activities in the Eastern Mediterranean had been limited for that.

The European Union was not eager to renew the Customs Union agreement with Türkiye. EU countries have a share of 35% approximately in the Turkish economy. Another reason is that Türkiye could not receive the expected economic support from Gulf States.

The Wagner incident demonstrated that Russia is suffering a kind of weakening both on domestic and international scales. The situation in Syria remains unresolved. Iran’s full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and its engagement in certain regional moves disturbed Türkiye. All these were factors for Türkiye’s decision in NATO.

Türkiye’s relations with Russia will not deteriorate much, but Türkiye indeed turned more towards the West from a balance position. Now Turkish-Russian relations will be tested in the grain agreement and on Vladimir Putin’s visit to Türkiye.

The US will not give up on its Middle East and Mediterranean policies that contradict Türkiye’s national interests. Türkiye is seeking to keep the possible crises with the US in controllable limits. Türkiye should have conducted these negotiations in a more transparent manner and in a tone that does not create an image of ‘backtracking’ in public opinion. Everyone knows that the promises made to Türkiye have not been fulfilled and everyone knows that membership to the EU will not be thanks to Sweden’s ‘yes’.”

NATO itself is a national security issue for Türkiye

Retired Staff Colonel İhsan Sefa stated the following:

“President Erdoğan has not been able to break away from the US. We don’t know if there are certain undisclosed elements of threat and blackmail, but it’s evident that fear plays a role here.

The membership of Sweden and Finland in NATO is a great threat to world peace. NATO itself has become a national security issue for Türkiye. If Russia is cornered in St. Petersburg in the Baltic Sea, it will use its nuclear power through Belarus.

The promises given to Türkiye are barely little more than deception. The military bases and all kinds of arms aiming at Türkiye, placed from the shores of Greece to the Eastern Mediterranean and then to Syria, have been dismantled?

Unfortunately, it seems likely that Sweden’s membership to NATO will pass in our parliament. The opposition is no different than the government when it comes to submission to the US. Unfortunately, the US got what it wanted.

Policies to harm Russia are extremely wrong. Türkiye’s place is Asia. If Türkiye turns its back on Asia, it will be left alone in the face of the US’s threats. It is a blunder to demean Türkiye on the excuse of economic difficulties. 80% of the Turkish people are against the US and NATO, so a parliament claiming to represent the nation should vote accordingly.

Non-reciprocal for Türkiye

Retired Gendarmerie Major and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ali Fuat Gökçe commented as follows:

“Sweden has not fulfilled its promises to Türkiye. In response, President Erdoğan brought up the issue of Türkiye’s EU membership. However the statement made by Germany underlined that Sweden’s NATO membership and Türkiye’s EU membership are two separate issues. How influential the US will be about it is still quite uncertain. Additionally we see differences between the statements of our President and NATO’s joint statement. While Türkiye’s decision to vote for Sweden’s NATO membership in the parliament is concrete and decisive, there comes nothing equivalent from the other side. Sweden’s support for Türkiye’s EU is something too general to be tangible, because Sweden is only one of the 27 EU countries. So the situation is non-reciprocal for Türkiye.

As for the relations with Russia, I don’t expect any negative attitude from Russia in the short term, but Russia would take that into account in the medium and long term. We should be careful not to deteriorate our relations with Russia. We should not forget that we are inseparable neighboring countries.

Yet, to claim that ‘Türkiye has renounced its orientation towards Asia’ would not be accurate; this decision is rather the result of the pressures Türkiye is facing.

Türkiye should keep its expectations limited about the US and the EU. They won’t recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus as an independent state. If we should persist in developing and implementing our national policies.”

How about the credibility of Türkiye?

Political scientist Prof. Dr. Hasan Ünal stated the following:

“Türkiye approved Sweden’s NATO membership only for the purchase of F-16s and has largely backed down from all other demands at the expense of worsening relations with Russia.

The government’s foreign policy, described as ‘balanced’ and ‘careful’, seems to have failed in this case. It also became less predictable. In foreign policy, leaping from one extreme to the other with sudden decisions usually result in a lack of control. We experienced that in 2011, when we abandoned our friendship with Syria overnight, which we had built for 15 years.

Is there any guarantee that we will be able to purchase F16s while jeopardizing our carefully cultivated relations with Russia? Any promise from the US, Sweden or even the EU, even if it is in writing, is like a ‘Lipponen Letter’. It is filed away and forgotten because they are only to save the day. Former Finnish Prime Minister Lipponen sent a letter to Ankara in 1999 when his country was the rotating EU president to get Ankara to accept the decisions of the EU summit, especially on Cyprus. This letter was marketed to the Turkish public as ‘it has become part of the EU acquis’ at that time. The aim was to bring Türkiye under the EU’s control and they succeeded. Soon the letter was forgotten.

Didn’t the West sign the Minsk agreements to buy time to arm Ukraine against Russia?

How much credibility would Türkiye have in the eyes of the Turkic World and Eurasian countries if it succumbed so easily to US pressure?”

Too much pragmatism leads to mistrust

Political scientist Prof. Dr. Hasan Köni emphasized the following:

“It is not possible for a Europe tired of Muslim immigration to accept Türkiye’s EU membership. Maybe it was possible in 2003 or 2007, but not anymore. Now they don’t even give visas to Turkish citizens. Who believes that they accept Türkiye into the EU?

The PKK/YPG terrorist organization is still benefiting from Sweden to voice its policies in the international arena. Have the US actions destabilizing the Middle East and directly affecting Türkiye come to an end? So what has changed for Türkiye?

Sweden’s military power is already used in NATO. It is part of the European security system, which includes 26 NATO countries. Even Israel has joined it. Joe Biden wants Sweden and Finland in NATO to strengthen his hand in US domestic politics. Türkiye probably took this step to facilitate the outflow of Gulf money held in European and US banks. Türkiye is being very pragmatic. This is a handicap that can lead to mistrust in international relations. I believe Turkish parliament should reject Sweden’s NATO membership.”

NATOs Baltic and Pacific strategy

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Deniz Tansi made the following assessment:

“NATO is pursuing a Baltic strategy. NATO’s expansion is related to this strategy and to encircle Russia. Some claim that NATO’s founding treaty can also change to extend to the Pacific. There are reportedly talks with Japan and South Korea about it. The expansion in the Baltic is the last stage before the Pacific. Sweden’s admission to NATO is part of this process.

Türkiye’s decision about Sweden is no surprise. Yet Türkiye should have bought time and focused on effective and tangible gains. Full EU membership is not the right and realistic goal for Türkiye. Türkiye should make free trade agreements with the EU that go beyond the customs union and common tariff. I don’t think all this will lead to any breakdown in relations with Russia.”

United World International

Independent analytical center where political scientists and experts in international relations from various countries exchange their opinions and views.

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