Turkey threatens to dash Swedish, Finnish hopes of quick NATO entry


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Veto-wielding NATO member Turkey is threatening to end Swedish and Finnish membership hopes. However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's opposition is rekindling questions over Ankara's allegiances, given its close ties with Moscow. Erdogan doubled down on his opposition to Finland and Sweden's NATO membership application, accusing the countries of supporting terrorist organizations fighting Turkey. The Turkish president told the Scandinavian countries not to bother to send diplomatic delegations to change his mind. But NATO is seen as now paying the price for ignoring Erdogan. "He wants the NATO leader to come to him, acknowledge that Turkey has legitimate security concerns, find ways of appeasing that, and also pay more attention to Turkey. He doesn't want to be taken for granted," said Asli Aydintasbas, a senior fellow of the European Council. "I think that they worry the way the Ukraine war is headed to towards a long-term escalation," added Aydintasbas. "I think there is clearly some disappointment in Ankara that western leaders are not rallying behind Turkish's proposals to mediate between Ukraine and Russia." Erdogan's advisors and his foreign minister had been seeking to downplay threats of a veto. They have been calling for talks over Sweden's and Finland's arms embargo against Turkey and it harboring alleged members of the Kurdish rebel group the PKK, which is fighting Turkey. But Erdogan's hardening stance will likely add to concerns in Nato over the Turkish president's close ties with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. "Turkey has very good relations with Russia, and Russia supplies defense systems. Russia is, for now and for the future, one of the biggest energy suppliers to Turkey," points out Huseyin Bagci, head of the Ankara-based Foreign Policy Institute. Bagci argues such close ties are key to understanding Erdogan's attitude toward Finland and Sweden's bid to join the Atlantic Alliance. "The good relations between Erdogan and Putin are also the reason why Tayyip Erdogan plays this card. The second (reason), Tayyip Erdogan tries to increase the leverage of Turkish bargaining process through this," said Bagci Turkey remains at loggerheads with NATO over its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system, which saw the United States slap Ankara with military sanctions. In addition, Ankara risks a backlash from its NATO partners over its opposition to Sweden and Finland's membership. "There will be those who say let's expel Turkey from NATO, although to the best of my knowledge, there is no expulsion mechanism in NATO," warns International relations expert Soli Ozel of Istanbul's Kadir Has University. Turkey's internaitonal standing But relations between Turkey and its allied partners, particularly Washington, had improved with Ankara's condemnation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Turkey has recently used goodwill over its stance on Ukraine to improve ties with its Western allies. Analyst Ozel suggests Erdogan could be just looking for a deal, but he questions his approach. "Turkey would like to use its power to veto as leverage in order to get those two countries to do as it would please it. How wise it is, is pretty debatable in my judgment," "I don't particularly find it very advisable. Because if Turkey is on a charm offensive and it's trying to rebuild bridges that it burnt with almost everyone, you can usually make your case, but you don't have to do it so publicly," warned Ozel. But some experts, along with western diplomats, suggest Ankara wouldn't dare to use its veto, risking outrage from its western partners. But with Erdogan facing re-election next year and lagging in the polls, his legacy could be a factor in his deliberations. "Tayyip Erdogan got a historic opportunity to increase the leverage and expectation of Turkey and probably will be supported by the public, and he will go into history as someone who opposed the Americans," claims Bagci. Feverish diplomacy and the likelihood of plenty of horse-trading could well determine Sweden's and Finland's place in Nato and Turkey's relationship with its western allies.

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