Risk that Sweden may never join NATO

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Published 22 January 2023 at 16.44

Foreign. It is far from certain that Turkey will approve the Swedish NATO application even if the country were allowed to buy American planes of the F-16 type. That's what Turkey experts and analysts say to Svenska Dagbladet.

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It is difficult to say whether Sweden will become a member of NATO because there are many different factors that influence the decision. The text in the application protocol is not crystal clear, which may have contributed to the fact that both Sweden and Turkey could consider signing.

Since then, it has become clear that Sweden and Turkey have different perceptions of what was promised. There are also connections to other conflicts, such as the issue of NATO, the PKK and Turkey's view of terrorists.

According to international analyses, a stronger NATO is in Turkey's own strategic interest, but President Erdogan can use the issue of NATO as a tool to create public opinion before the elections this autumn.

However, it is not only about the PKK's terrorist activities, but also about the political movements that the PKK has succeeded in establishing within Scandinavia, as well as about the US's military support for it the Syrian PKK branch YPG, which Ankara considers terrorists.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Mevlüt Çavusoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, earlier this week, but there is no indication that a settlement has been reached between the parties.

This despite the fact that the US offered Turkey the old F-16 fighter jet with some modernizations. However, the anger is still great in Turkey as the US has cut off deliveries of F-35 fighter jets to the Turks, even though that plane is close to Turkey's heart as it assisted in the development and financing of the aircraft since 2015.

However, the British analyst Timothy Ash from Chatham House does not believe that the package of F-16s from the USA is actually aimed at influencing the NATO process.

If Erdogan were to budge on the issue of Sweden, it would not happen before the election in any case , and maybe not since either. If he lifts the Turkish veto without getting significant concessions from Sweden, criticism from the opposition is expected, according to Ash.

Berkay Mandiraci, Turkey analyst at the organization International Crisis Group, tells SvD that the F-16 deal with the US will probably not make Erdogan lift the veto.

– Doing it just to get the F-16, I think will not happen, he tells SvD.

Right now, however, a Turkish turnaround is very unlikely. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in a bad position in terms of public opinion ahead of this year's elections and may use the issue of the NATO veto as a tool to rally the nation behind him.

Raising the requirements for, for example, how many extradited terrorists are required to say yes to Sweden in NATO, from around 30 to 130, is a way of keeping that issue alive.

Provocations from activists such as the Rojava Committees in Stockholm can also – ironically – give Erdogan votes.

There is really only one way for Erdogan to lose from what is happening, and that would be if he downplayed the demands on Sweden or bowed to the pressure from the U.S. Then he risks criticism from the opposition and a loss in the upcoming election, but in practice only then.

In addition, the Swedish petting of the PKK is a real problem, which in practice can lead to interventions also from the EU and the Union's authorities against terrorist financing. A big piece of news in Turkey last week was Avmaskerat's revelation that SEB provides payment solutions and bank accounts for the Rojava Committees' Swedish PKK webshop, and the organization's fundraising for the YPG.

Mandiraci tells SvD that, for example, Germany in recent years has done much to stifle PKK fund-raising and to ban the use of PKK symbols and flags in demonstrations, even though the country formally considers itself a democracy. This is why Sweden has such a hard time getting a hearing for the view that Western freedom of expression makes it impossible to intervene against the PKK.

When SvD asks Timothy Ash if he thinks Sweden will be allowed to join NATO after the Turkish election he says that he believes that the pressure from NATO will be so overwhelming that he will have to give the go-ahead for Sweden and Finland's membership, he says.