Explained | What made Turkey green-light Sweden joining NATO?

The story so far: A day ahead of a key summit in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) on Monday, July 10, checked off a major task from its agenda for this year. It finally reached a deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to let Sweden into the military alliance. This came after a year of negotiations and global leaders lobbying Mr. Erdogan to drop his veto against Sweden, which he contended was harbouring “terrorist groups.”

Related: Explained | Why is Turkey against Sweden, Finland joining NATO?

What is the procedure to join NATO? 

There are some minimum requirements for a country to be eligible to join NATO, such as upholding democracy, tolerating diversity, respecting the sovereignty of other countries and so on. 

Once a country applies for NATO membership, they are signed on to a Membership Action Plan (MAP), a mechanism used by every new member that joined between 1999 and 2020. Sweden and Finland, the most recent applicants, however, did not use this procedure.

Once a country has met the requirements and expressed its intention to join NATO, it is invited to do so if all member countries agree. This marks the beginning of accession talks, which end with the signing of the Accession Protocol. 

All member countries— 31 at present— have to sign the Protocol and then get it ratified by their national legislatures, subsequently submitting the ratified instrument to the United States government, which is the depositary of the Treaty. 

Since all existing members have to undertake this process, the Turkish President’s disagreement over Sweden has effectively acted as a veto power. 

When did Sweden apply to join NATO?

In May 2022, two Nordic countries, Sweden and Finland, applied to join NATO, the organisation whose initial goal was to block the erstwhile Soviet Union’s expansion in Europe post the Second World War.

These countries have historically had a policy of military ‘non-alignment.’ While the two countries co-operated with NATO as closely as a non-member could, they did not apply for official membership until last year. In the past, they have held joint military drills with NATO, shared intelligence and have supported NATO’s military missions abroad. 

It was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine that largely triggered the countries’ bid to join NATO. The Russian military operation in Ukraine was seen by many as Russia violating the sovereignty of a weaker power in its neighbourhood. It also raised questions as to whether Russia would have started the war if Ukraine had been a NATO member. While Sweden and Finland did not have a border issue with Russia, neither did Ukraine until the Crimean annexation by Moscow in 2014. Sweden and Finland were now worried about a potential future border conflict. The war virtually changed the security dynamic in the region and prompted the two nations to apply for NATO membership, believing that it would act as a deterrent.

However, the membership bids of the countries hit a year-long impasse owing to the objections of one NATO member— Turkey. While Turkey agreed earlier this year to let Finland join the alliance, it held out on Sweden’s bid.

Why was Turkey against Sweden’s NATO membership?

Turkey has argued that Sweden and Finland have ties with “terrorist” groups — a reference to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG). The PKK, which seeks greater autonomy for Turkey’s Kurdish minority, has waged an armed insurgency since the mid-1980s. The YPG is the armed wing of Syrian Kurdistan which controls parts of the Kurdish region in Syria. The PKK is also deemed a terrorist group by the United States and European Union.

Meanwhile, Sweden has criticised Turkey for human rights abuses, especially in Kurdish regions, and questioned its democratic standards— which has not gone down with politicians in Ankara. 

Mr. Erdogan said Sweden, and Finland to a certain extent, maintained close ties with Kurdish militias, particularly the YPG. It also accused the countries of hosting supporters of the Fethullah Gulen movement, a religious sect led by the U.S.-based Gulen accused by Ankara of masterminding the failed 2016 coup against Mr. Erdogan. It also alleged that the two Nordic countries refused to extradite 33 people wanted by Ankara. 

Mr. Erdogan was also upset by an arms shipment embargo imposed by the two countries on Turkey from 2019 after its incursion into Syria against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia. As a concession to get Turkey on board for their NATO bid, Sweden lifted the ban last year.

In June 2022, following negotiations, Turkey agreed to let Finland and Sweden join NATO provided they worked on counter-terrorism measures. In March this year, Turkey said it was satisfied with Finland’s efforts and ratified its Accession Protocol, but said that Sweden had not done enough.

Earlier this year, protests in Stockholm where the Quran was burned also added to Turkey’s disagreement. On a separate occasion, an effigy of Erdogan was hanged upside down, as per a Reuters report.

What softened Turkey’s stance on Sweden?

A look at some simultaneous developments and at the Joint Statement by NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, Mr. Erdogan, and Swedish Prime Ulf Kristersson indicates that the reasons for Turkey’s change in stance are multi-fold. 

“Sweden has amended its constitution, changed its laws, significantly expanded its counter- terrorism cooperation against the PKK, and resumed arms exports to Türkiye, all steps set out in the Trilateral Memorandum agreed in 2022,” the joint release outlines. 

The two countries also agreed to create a new bilateral Security Compact that will meet annually at ministerial level. NATO reiterated that it condemns terrorism and decided to create the post of Special Coordinator for Counter-terrorism for the alliance.

While these are efforts toward Turkey’s original objection about Sweden harbouring “terrorist groups,” Ankara has managed to get a lot more in return for its green light to Sweden’s NATO bid.

Mr. Erdogan this week said he would clear the way for Sweden to join NATO, if Turkey was allowed to join the European Union. Turkey launched its bid to join the EU in 2005, but some of Mr. Erdogan’s internal politics led to an indefinite suspension of talks. In 2016, the European Parliament had voted to suspend talks after noting human rights violations, jailing of dissidents, and deterioration of the rule of law in Turkey, and how the President strengthened his grip on the country’s leadership.

While Mr. Erdogan’s proposal was brushed off by the EU and Washington, Sweden promised that it would support some of Turkey’s bids to join and some of its demands at the EU. These demands include the modernisation of the EU-Turkey Customs Union and visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens.

Analysts also point out another potentially significant development: U.S President Joe Biden announced hours after the NATO deal with Turkey that the White House would move forward with a deal to transfer F-16 fighter jets to Turkey. 

In 2019, Washington had dropped Turkey from a programme to develop and produce F-35 fighter jets after the latter purchased the S-400 defence system from Russia. America has also imposed sanctions on Turkey. Since then, Turkey has demanded that it be allowed to purchase F-16 jets and optimise the ones it already had.

What does Sweden’s membership mean for NATO?

Firstly, this membership aligns with NATO’s expansion plans. Second, it helps consolidate NATO’s security efforts and defence integration in the Nordic, Baltic region, and Arctic regions. All other Nordic countries are already members of the alliance.

It also brings NATO closer to Russia’s borders. Further, Sweden has a sophisticated army and defence technology, which could benefit NATO.

For Sweden, it means securing NATO protections that only formal membership brings. For instance, Article 5 of NATO says that any attack on a NATO member “shall be considered an attack against them all”.

What’s next?

The Turkish President has said he will get Sweden’s Accession Protocol ratified in Turkey’s Grand National Assembly as soon as possible. It is yet to be seen how long his administration will take to introduce the document in the legislature and convince hard line politicians who are against Sweden over the alleged Kurdish ties.

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NATO Summit: How the Alliance is strengthening its eastern flank

Along with seeking a compromise for Ukraine’s entry into NATO, leaders at the Vilnius summit are on a quest to bolster the Alliance’s eastern front.

World leaders gathering in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius on Tuesday for a two-day NATO summit will seek to formulate a united message on Ukraine’s eventual membership within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization amid efforts to  reinforce the Alliance’s eastern front in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.   

NATO began increasing its military presence on its eastern flank (Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria) following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. Four months after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the Alliance would boost the number of troops on high alert by more than sevenfold to more than 300,000.  

NATO has been conducting the biggest transformation of its defence plans since the Cold War to deter Moscow from encroaching on its neighbours. At the NATO summit in Vilnius, member states are expected to announce increased investment on defence and elaborate long-term security plans.   

“No country is immune to all threats; they all have vulnerabilities. For NATO, the eastern flank is important,” said Vaidotas Urbelis, defence policy director of Lithuania’s ministry of defence.

Lithuania has reasons to be concerned. It shares a border with Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave located to the west on the Baltic Sea, and Belarus, which many analysts consider to be a de-facto military extension of Russia.

“This is why we are saying geography matters, control over the Baltic Sea matters,” Urbelis said. 

As the war in Ukraine drags on, Poland also has security concerns. After having experienced successive Russian invasions and occupations throughout its history, Warsaw’s leaders aren’t taking any chances. The right-wing government of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced in January that Poland would increase defence spending from 3% to 4% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), putting it on track to become the NATO member that spends more on defence than any other relative to its GDP.


Greece, the United States and Lithuania are among the NATO countries with the highest defence expenditure as a share of their GDP (%) in 2022. © FRANCE24 screen grab

‘We need to close the gap’

NAT0 has seen several of its members fall short of defence financing pledges over the past several years. NATO allies agreed in 2014 that member states should spend at least 2% of their GDP on defence within a decade. But many have still failed to reach this target. In 2022, France’s defence spending was 1.89% of its GDP, Italy was at 1.51% and Spain was at 1.09%. Only the three Baltic states, Poland, the United Kingdom, the United States and Greece met or exceeded the 2% threshold.

“We need to close the gap,” said Urbelis.

The Ukraine war has reawakened fears of an expansionist Russia.

“In order to defend ourselves, we need as many forces on the ground as possible, with speed being key. With Russian capacities just across the border; our forces must be ready to react to any incursion on NATO territory,” Urbelis added.

Zygimantas Pavilionis, a member of Lithuania’s parliament, sees the NATO summit as the right occasion to rally members on their defence budgets.

“I hope the Vilnius summit will be the moment when all member states commit to NATO defence spending,” he said.

Lithuania wants to press allies to spend more money on bolstering their military industries. This means persuading members of NATO to spend like the Baltic states, which have pledged to raise their defence spending to 3% of their GDP.

Integrating Ukraine into NATO is also an important piece of the puzzle for the Baltic states.

“Clearing Ukraine’s path to NATO membership by the time of the Washington NATO summit in 2024 will show Ukrainians and Russians we have a clear end-game strategy and all other attempts to destroy Ukraine will fail,” said Pavilionis.

Keeping the big picture in mind

The threats to NATO’s eastern flank can vary, and some military experts say the Alliance needs to keep the big picture in mind.

“Whether it’s an infantry attack on Poland or an intervention in Moldova, these are completely different scenarios,” said Yohann Michel, a research analyst at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

To prepare for some of the possible scenarios, allied air forces began the largest deployment exercise in NATO’s history last June. Hosted and led by Germany, the two-week-long  Air Defender exercise had been planned for months, with training missions that took place over the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and southern Germany. The drills were aimed at boosting the Allies’ preparedness against aircraft, drones and missile attacks on cities and infrastructure.

But in modern warfare, an adversary doesn’t need to cross NATO’s borders to be a threat. Michel cited the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which delivered Russian oil and gas to Europe, as one example of Russian influence that could be wielded aggressively. “These are the kinds of scenarios we would like to plan for in the future,” he added.

As for Stoltenberg’s 2022 objective to have a rapid-reaction force of more than 300,000 troops ready to move to its eastern flank within 30 days, officials and experts admit NATO forces are nowhere near meeting that objective. “To reach this goal, European armed forces need to improve their readiness capacity. This means improving artillery in some areas and air defence in other areas,” said Michel.

Decades of underspending on military capacities among NATO countries also means that many have out-of-date military equipment, including parts that need to be replaced.

“Readiness implies what can you move at ‘time t’ (right away) in terms of equipment and troops,” said Michel.


A member of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) takes part in the Spring Storm exercises of the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) force in Kadrina, Estonia on May 19, 2023.
A member of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) takes part in the Spring Storm exercises of the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) force in Kadrina, Estonia on May 19, 2023. © Jaap Arriens, AFP


NATO’s forward presence

NATO countries have been adapting to the new security reality by moving increasing numbers of troops to the eastern part of the Alliance. NATO’s forward presence is made up of eight multinational battlegroups provided by Allies on a voluntary and rotational basis.

The battlegroups operate in tandem with national armies, with Canada currently leading a battlegroup in Latvia and Britain leading one in Estonia. French foreign legionnaires have also been assigned to the UK-led battlegroup in Estonia as part of what France calls Mission Lynx.

Since the invasion of Ukraine, NATO countries have been stationing their battlegroups in host countries for longer periods of time and with increased numbers of troops. Germany’s Defence Minister Boris Pistorius recently promised to upgrade Germany’s military presence in Lithuania to the size of a brigade (4,000-5,000 troops).

Berlin already leads NATO’s multinational battlegroup in Lithuania with a reinforced battalion of approximately 1,000 troops. “We agree that the brigade will grow step-by-step as the infrastructure is established,” Pistorius said, adding that such a deployment could not be completed within “a few months”.

“It could take years before the infrastructure for the brigade is in place”, said Michel. Yet by constructing the necessary infrastructure, including schools and housing areas for families, Germany is turning around the logistical problem of maintaining troops in one place over long periods of time, he added.

A plurality of voices

While NATO has remained mostly united in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, member states can have different – even competing – interests. A recent example is Turkey’s resistance to Swedish membership over what Ankara saw as Sweden’s lack of action on Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants, before a last-minute reversal on the eve of the summit.

The NATO summit in Vilnius will focus largely on regional plans and resources, along with efforts to find a consensus on Ukraine’s future membership in the Alliance.

“We (the member countries) each have our political line and interests,” Urbelis said. “Our ambitions are not always the same. That’s why we talk with our partners from other countries.”

Urbelis said the Russian system is under stress due to the highly centralised nature of power in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, particularly now. Putin is spending exorbitantly on defence while human lives and social programmes are put on the back burner, he said.  

“Democracies are actually better equipped to take care of their own because of transparency,” said Michel. “We are not bad at restoring our armed forces – when we want to – because of our flexibility and adaptability.”

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You’re up, Joe: Europe awaits Biden’s nod on next NATO chief

Europe is waiting for white smoke from Washington. 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will visit the White House on Tuesday, part of a trip that could determine whether he stays on at the helm of the Western military alliance or if the U.S. will back a new candidate. 

For months now, Europe has been locked in an endless parlor game over who might replace Stoltenberg, who is slated to leave his already-extended term in September after nearly 10 years at the helm.

Candidates have risen, fallen and risen again, while some desired successors have repeatedly proclaimed themselves not interested. Diplomats at NATO headquarters in Brussels will put forth one theory, only to offer a different one in the next sentence.

Throughout it all, the U.S. has stayed noticeably mum on the subject, merely indicating President Joe Biden hasn’t settled on a candidate and effusively praising Stoltenberg’s work. Yet Biden can’t sit on the fence forever. While the NATO chief is technically chosen by consensus, the White House’s endorsement carries heavy weight.

The foot-dragging has left NATO in limbo: while some members say it’s high time for a fresh face, the NATO job — traditionally reserved for a European — has become highly sensitive. There are few senior European leaders who are both available and can win the backing of all 31 alliance members for the high-profile post. 

The result is that all eyes have turned to Washington as the clock ticks down to NATO’s annual summit in July — a sort of deadline for the alliance to make a decision on its next (or extended) leader. 

“I would not be 100 percent sure that the list is closed,” said one senior diplomat from Central Europe, who like others was granted anonymity to discuss alliance dynamics. “There might be,” the diplomat added, “a last-minute extension initiative.”  

Shadow contest

Diplomats are divided on what will happen in the NATO leadership sweepstakes. 

While many candidates still insist they are not in the running — and Stoltenberg has repeatedly said he plans to go home to Norway, where he was prime minister — all options appear to remain on the table.  

In recent days, the two possible contenders mentioned most often in diplomatic circles are Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.

Frederiksen met with Biden at the White House last week, turbocharging speculation about her future. As a female leader from a European Union country that is a strong Ukraine supporter but not a full-on hawk, the Danish leader checks off many boxes for some of the alliance’s most influential members. 

Yet speaking to reporters in Washington, she insisted, “I am not a candidate for any other job than the one I have now, and this has not changed after my meeting with the U.S. president.” 

In NATO circles, however, the narrative is different. Four European diplomats said Frederiksen’s name is still circulating as a serious contender for the post. 

Still, Frederiksen faces challenges: Denmark already had the top NATO job less than a decade ago. And not everyone is totally enthusiastic. 

“The Turks might want to block the Danish candidate,” said the senior Central European diplomat. “There is some distance to this idea (not to Frederiksen personally) also elsewhere in the east and in the south, and some of those countries might even join a potential blockade.”

Turkey summoned the Danish envoy in Ankara earlier this year after a far-right group burned a Quran and Turkish flag in Copenhagen. More broadly, the Turkish government has taken issue with a number of northern European countries and is still blocking Sweden’s NATO accession bid.

Asked about possible opposition to the Danish leader from Ankara, however, a Turkish official said: “It is gossip, period. We have never been asked about her candidacy!”

Britain’s Wallace, on the other hand, has openly expressed interest in the NATO job. 

But he faces an uphill battle. Many allies would prefer to see a former head of government in the role. And some EU capitals have signaled they would oppose a non-EU candidate. 

Asked last week if it’s time for a British secretary-general, Biden was lukewarm. 

“Maybe. That remains to be seen,” the president said. “We’re going to have to get a consensus within NATO to see that happen. They have a candidate who’s a very qualified individual. But we’re going to have — we have a lot of discussion, not between us, but in NATO, to determine what the outcome of that will be.” 

A number of other names — including Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and Spanish leader Pedro Sánchez — are still occasionally mentioned, although less frequently. Sánchez, for his part, could soon be in the market for a new job as he faces a tough election in July. 

Some diplomats simply aren’t crazy about any of the leading options.

“I don’t feel it,” said a senior NATO diplomat, also speaking anonymously to discuss internal deliberations. The diplomat argued the “most likely” scenario is yet another short extension for Stoltenberg and a need to then “refresh” the list of candidates. 

The senior diplomat from Central Europe argued that “the EU core” — some of the bloc’s most influential capitals — might be in favor of an extension that would sync up the NATO chief talks with the EU’s upcoming leadership reshuffle after the EU’s June 2024 elections. Combining the two could open the door to more political horse trading. 

But asked last month about his future, Stoltenberg said: “I have made it clear that I have no other plans than to leave this fall. I will already have been almost twice as long as originally planned.”

Others insisted they remained upbeat about the names on the table. 

Both Frederiksen and Wallace, said one senior northern European diplomat, “seem well qualified.” 

A senior diplomat from Eastern Europe bet on a new NATO chief soon. 

“I think,” the diplomat said, “we are moving closer to the replacement than extension.”

Eli Stokols contributed reporting.

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Sweden, Turkey not expected to back down in NATO accession tug of war

Sweden said on Sunday that Turkey is asking for too much in exchange for allowing it to join NATO, as Ankara effectively demands the impossible – that Stockholm override a decision by its own Supreme Court. But analysts say Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is unlikely to retract its condition, at least not before the all-important presidential elections scheduled in June. 

Sweden’s new conservative Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said that, as far as he is concerned, Stockholm has done enough for Ankara.

“Turkey confirms that we have done what we said we would do. But they also say that they want things that we can’t and won’t give them,” Kristersson told the Forsvar Security Conference in Sweden. 

Along with neighbouring Finland, Sweden made joining NATO its top foreign policy objective last year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine jolted them from their official neutrality stretching back through the Cold War. However, Erdogan made Turkey’s green light conditional – accusing Sweden of giving safe haven to people linked to Kurdish militant group the PKK and to the Gulenist movement Turkey holds responsible for the 2016 failed coup. 

Sweden – which has a large Kurdish diaspora of some 100,000 people – responded to Erdogan’s demands at a NATO summit back in June. Sweden and Finland agreed to “commit to prevent the activities of the PKK” on its territory.  

Stockholm then reversed an embargo on arms sales to Turkey and distanced itself from the YPG – a Syrian militia Western countries championed for its role fighting the Islamic State group but anathema to Ankara because of its close ties to the PKK, which has waged intermittent guerrilla campaigns against the Turkish state since 1984 and is classed as a terrorist organisation by the EU and US as well as Turkey. 

But Erdogan demands the extradition of journalist Bulent Kenes, an ex-editor-in-chief of the now closed Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman, for his alleged role in the foiled coup.  

‘Not a political question’ 

The Swedish Supreme Court rejected Turkey’s demand in December, on the grounds that Kenes risked persecution for his politics if he were sent to Turkey. 

This is a judicial matter in a country run according to the separation of powers, and that gives the Swedish government no choice, noted Hakan Gunneriusson, a professor of political science at Mid Sweden University.

“Specific individuals can’t be expelled to Turkey from Sweden if there’s no legal foundation for it. It is a legal procedure, not a political question,” Gunneriusson said. 

If anything, Turkey’s intransigence on the question will only strengthen Swedish resolve, suggested Toni Alaranta, a senior research fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs in Helsinki. 

“Both Sweden and Finland are applying for NATO in order to secure our [political order based on] rule of law in times of possible external attack – not to throw it in a dustbin,” Alaranta said.  

This approach is popular amongst the Swedish electorate, according to a poll published by newspaper Dagens Nyheter last week, which showed that 79 percent of Swedes favour standing by the court ruling even if it holds up NATO accession.  

Turkey’s stance is expected to soon become the only remaining obstacle to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, since 28 of the Western alliance’s 30 members have validated their requests and the Hungarian parliament is set to give its approval later this month. 

‘Happy to wait things out’ 

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto lamented that Ankara will probably not allow the two countries to join before Turkey’s presidential polls in June. Yet Sweden and Finland could well end up waiting for longer.  

Turkey is no stranger to rowing with fellow NATO members – as demonstrated by Erdogan’s public spats with French President Emmanuel Macron and, especially, Ankara’s decision to buy Russia’s S-400 air defence system in 2017 in the face of US uproar followed by sanctions. Erdogan also has a history of making life difficult for European countries to help advance his priorities in the Middle East – most notably when he threatened in 2019 to let millions of migrants into Europe unless European powers quietened their criticism of Turkey’s offensive on Kurdish forces in Syria. 

Of course, Russia’s war against Ukraine is the West’s most pressing geopolitical concern, making it a natural priority to bring Sweden and Finland into the NATO umbrella. But the war in Ukraine also highlight’s Turkey’s importance to the Western alliance, even if Ankara has been an awkward NATO member over the past decade. So far Erdogan has kept ties with both Russia and Ukraine while alienating neither – and that bore fruit for the rest of the world when Turkey brokered alongside the UN a deal to export Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea in July, before renewing the deal in November after Russia briefly withdrew. 

“Erdogan approaches the NATO alliance with the belief that Turkey’s interests are not taken seriously enough and that NATO needs Turkey,” observed Howard Eissenstat, a Turkey specialist at St. Lawrence University in New York state and the Middle East Institute in Washington DC. “He doesn’t see acrimony within the alliance as necessarily a bad thing, so long as it underlines that Turkey’s interests need to be addressed.” 

The Turkish government’s “core assumptions about how Western governments should pursue Turkey’s enemies are at odds with basic principles of rule of law”, Eissenstat said, adding that he thought: “Ankara knew this at the onset but believes the process serves its interests.” 

“Ankara is perfectly happy to wait things out,” he reasoned. “Those calculations may well change after Turkish elections when the domestic benefits decrease, but until then I doubt Ankara is likely to budge.” 

Indeed, Erdogan faces a tricky re-election campaign in June amid a woeful economic context, as a currency and debt crisis has racked Turkey since 2018.  

“The key issues in Turkey’s elections are, of course, mostly domestic – the abysmal economy and the question of [Syrian] refugees,” Eissenstat pointed out. “But Erdogan clearly benefits from taking a tough stance on Finnish and Swedish accession to NATO.” 

Not only do the Turkish public like to “see Turkish leaders playing important roles in the world”, Eissenstat said, it is also “probably true that many share Erdogan’s distrust of the West and belief that Western governments have given safe haven to Turkey’s enemies”. 

So the Swedish-Turkish tug of war is set to continue. However, perhaps the most revealing statement at that Swedish defence conference was not Kristersson’s refusal to override the Supreme Court – but rather NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s suggestion that the alliance has already extended its security umbrella to the two Scandinavian countries. “It is inconceivable that NATO would not act if the security of Sweden and Finland were threatened,” he said.

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