Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan explains why his country is opposed to Sweden and Finland joining.
Many experts and politicians are extremely critical of Turkey’s blockade of NATO’s northern expansion. Read the analysis by the Turkey project manager at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Istanbul, Beate Apelt, here. She says:
Turkey has gone from being a valued mediator between Ukraine and Russia to being a disruptive factor in the western alliance. With the blockade of NATO’s northern expansion, the stumbling Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pursuing an egotistical calculation that could end up making a gamble.
The war in Ukraine has challenged conventional wisdom about a rules-based international order, great power competition and Euro-Atlantic security. With the most recent developments, NATO, probably the largest military alliance in history, was revived.
Turkey has been a proud and indispensable NATO ally for 70 years. Our country became a member of the alliance in 1952 after sending troops to Korea to defend democracy and freedom. During and after the Cold War, Turkey acted as a stabilizer and force for good in the Middle East, the Caucasus and the Black Sea region. Turkish troops have also been deployed as part of NATO missions in many parts of the world, including Kosovo and Afghanistan.
At the same time, we have strengthened our defense capability in our country with investments worth billions in the armaments industry. The result of this additional capacity was the development of armaments that were used in various theaters of war, including Ukraine.
With its capacity expansions, Turkey has also contributed to the resilience and strength of NATO. While our partners have always appreciated Turkey’s contribution to NATO’s collective security mission, they were quickly forgotten when their national security was not threatened.
Our partners, aware of Turkey’s importance only in turbulent times like the Balkan crisis, mistakenly believed in long-term stability without Turkey. Thus, after overcoming immediate threats, they ignored the geopolitical realities and the potential dangers that could arise in the region. It is clear that such dreams have proved short-lived in the face of international crises.
The threats to world peace and international security have changed in recent years. Many therefore considered NATO to be an “outdated” organization that no longer served its purpose. Emmanuel Macron even called the alliance “brain dead” in 2019. It was the same voices that questioned Turkey’s role within NATO. This mixture of extraordinary wishful thinking and extreme strategic short-sightedness has cost the Alliance many years.
Yet Turkey refused to believe that the short-sighted, at times ruthless, stance of some member states was a reflection of NATO as a whole. On the contrary, we stressed the importance of NATO and called on member states to take the necessary steps, including updating NATO missions, to identify new threats and make the alliance more relevant to new geopolitical and global challenges.
This appeal was also consistent with our country’s response to the increasing instability of the international system.
Against this background, Turkey argued that NATO – like all other international organizations – must implement certain reforms in order to cope with the new security threats. With regard to terrorism in particular, the lack of collective action, despite direct attacks on many member states, has undermined security cooperation and fueled a deep distrust of the organization among the citizens of NATO countries.
At all NATO summits, Turkey drew attention to this trend and pointed out that international cooperation is of crucial importance for the further development of the fight against terrorism. We advocated more efficient NATO intelligence and military cooperation in dealing with terrorist organizations, not only to prevent terrorist attacks but also to stop terrorist financing and recruitment within NATO borders. We are still sticking to this position.
When several civil wars broke out in the immediate vicinity of Turkey, we made equally justified and necessary demands on NATO. It was important to ensure the security of our borders, our airspace and the protection of the population, as the region was experiencing the largest wave of refugees since the Second World War.
Almost left in the lurch, our country has dealt with all these crises on its own and has paid a high price for it. Ironically, all the measures taken within the framework of NATO would have prepared the alliance for future conflicts and crises on its borders.
A changed situation has emerged from the war in Ukraine, proving that Turkey’s expectations and demands were correct. There were some member states who suddenly appreciated Turkey’s geopolitical positioning in the wake of the far-reaching upheavals of this conflict and recognized that our country had done the right thing in the past.
Turkey rightly called on NATO members to prepare for the coming geopolitical challenges. And contrary to those who saw NATO as irrelevant, Turkey was absolutely correct in stating that the role of this organization would become increasingly important.
Unfortunately, while all NATO allies recognize Turkey’s vital importance to the Alliance, some members fail to understand certain threats to our country. Turkey maintains that the admission of Sweden and Finland poses risks to our security and the future of the organisation.
We rightly demand that these countries – which look to the second largest NATO army for their Article 5 defense – to oppose the recruitment, financing and propaganda activities of the PKK, as the European Union and America consider it a terrorist organization.
Turkey demands that the candidate countries stop the activities of all terrorist organizations and extradite the members of these organizations. We have presented clear evidence to the authorities of the countries concerned and are waiting for them to take action. Turkey also expects these countries to support the anti-terrorist operations of NATO members.
Terrorism is a threat to all members and candidate countries should recognize this fact before joining NATO. Until they take the necessary steps, Turkey will not take a different position on this issue.
Furthermore, Turkey stresses that all forms of arms embargoes – such as that imposed by Sweden on my country – are incompatible with the spirit of military partnership under the umbrella of NATO.
Such restrictions harm not only our national security but also NATO’s own identity. The uncompromising insistence of Sweden and Finland on joining the alliance added an unnecessary item to the NATO agenda.
Turkey’s opposition to the admission of Sweden and Finland, which have remained neutral up to the time of the latest developments, is a crucial step on behalf of all nations hitherto under attack by terrorist organizations. Terrorism knows no religion, nation or skin color. One of NATO’s key goals is for every member state to take decisive action against organizations that want to harm the civilian population. No country enjoys a privilege in this regard.
When it comes to solving problems and promoting peace and security in the world, there is not always a shortcut. However, it is possible to shorten the road to success by taking bold and necessary steps along the way. The attitude of Sweden and Finland towards the national security concerns and considerations of the countries with which they wish to be allied will also determine the extent of Turkey’s possible cooperation with these countries.
The ignorant and intrusive attitude of those who dare to question the relationship between Turkey – which in the past has expressed positive and constructive comments on the expansion of the alliance – and NATO does not change our position. Our country is open to all forms of diplomacy and dialogue, and strongly recommends focusing more on persuading the Alliance candidates to change their positions.
No authority in Ankara will allow itself to be dictated by a country that does not want to fight terrorism. We believe that the Alliance’s reputation and credibility will be jeopardized if NATO members pursue double standards in the fight against terrorism.
Originally posted by The Economist, “Double Standards”: Erdoğan Explains What He Really Thinks About NATO Expansion.