Nato accessions: how to overcome Ankara's blockade?

Turkey is adamantly blocking Finland and Sweden's applications to join Nato. President Erdoğan is demanding that both countries extradite members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and activists of the Gülen movement and put an end to sanctions against his country: Sweden has refused to supply Turkey with weapons since 2019 because of its military operations in Syria. Europe's press analyses the conflict.

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De Telegraaf (NL) /

Turkey not a team player

The current struggle is yet another sign that Ankara is not a reliable alliance partner, De Telegraaf notes:

“If the Turkish leader sticks to [his demands], a clear rift will form in Nato's unity after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. And that is extremely painful for Sweden and Finland, which have taken a historic step towards membership. ... [Turkey] also refuses to take part in the sanctions against Moscow. By persisting with its dishonourable demands vis-à-vis Sweden and Finland, Turkey is once again raising doubts as to its reliability as an ally.”

Daily Sabah (TR) /

Take the interests of all Nato members into account

Countries wanting to join Nato must respect all its members, the pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah comments:

“Turkey needs to see concrete steps taken rather than diplomatic statements. In this respect, Finland should also listen to Ankara's justified demands and fulfill them, without pretending that its chances of being accepted as a member are greater than Sweden's. Because you can't expect to take shelter under the most comprehensive security umbrella, of which a certain country is a member, yet ignore that country's national security demands.”

Expressen (SE) /

Moral superpower takes a tumble from its high horse

The wrangling over Nato membership has exposed the Swedes' lecturing others from its moral high horse as mendacious, writes Expressen:

“The moral superpower Sweden is now being forced to negotiate with the 'devil'. A rude awakening for a nation that until now preferred to let other countries do the dirty work. ... Sweden is receiving a dearly purchased lesson in realpolitik. Because that's exactly how complicated international politics often turns out to be. ... It's easy to be outraged by the hypocrisy of the US or the EU's deals with the devil when you're watching from the sidelines. However all too often the choice is not between good and evil, but between cholera and plague.”

Der Spiegel (DE) /

Don't set a bad precedent

Nato must reject Erdoğan's attempts at blackmail not only for moral reasons, Der Spiegel demands:

“It must also do it for strategic reasons, because otherwise it would set a dangerous precedent. Croatia's President Zoran Milanović has already been bold enough to make demands in return for his consent to Sweden and Finland joining Nato. Nato must not allow the alliance to degenerate into a blackmailers' den. It would be better to risk a conflict with Erdoğan.”

Český rozhlas (CZ) /

The problem of anti-democratic forces

The EU and Nato are repeatedly hampered by obstructionists, radio broadcaster Český rozhlas complains:

“Neither Nato nor the European Union have mechanisms to expel members who deviate from the rules of democracy. ... Turkey is now abusing its Nato membership to blackmail two exemplary democracies, Finland and Sweden. Hungary can't be expelled from the EU even though under Viktor Orbán it has failed to observe the rule of law for several years and violates EU values. ... The founders of Nato and the EU underestimated the fact that some countries with weak democratic traditions could pose a problem.”

ETC (SE) /

Objectionable trade-off

ETC fears that Sweden will now be forced to give up its support for the Kurds:

“Erdoğan has seized this opportunity, his little chest puffed up like that of a bullfinch. No thank you to Sweden and Finland. Why? Because Scandinavian countries are 'a hatchery for terrorist organisations', in the words of the petty dictator who has spent the last decade putting opposition politicians, academics, journalists and other bothersome figures behind bars on trumped-up terrorist charges. The worst hit are the Kurds. Now he's the one making the demands: Hand over everyone we want, send them to be tortured and to face mock trials. Welcome to Nato!”

Politiken (DK) /

West needs to distance itself from Erdoğan in the long run

Nato may well have to make concessions to Erdoğan, Politiken suggests:

“Unfortunately, in the short term Turkey's blackmailing is working well enough, so Erdoğan will secure some concessions and perhaps some cash. The Turkish leader is also focused on the upcoming elections and hopes to alleviate the economic chaos for which he alone is responsible. To ensure Sweden and Finland's accession to Nato it would be worth paying this price. But in the long run the West must free itself from Turkey's iron grip.”

Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

Value-based politics not possible right now

Eesti Päevaleht also sees pragmatic realpolitik as the only option in the current situation:

“For Turkey to approve the Nato accession of our Nordic neighbours, unfortunately we will have to resort to realpolitik and find out what Erdoğan wants in exchange for his approval in order to negotiate the necessary result. Is it enough if Sweden promises to stop blocking arms sales to Turkey and change its stance on the PKK, which Turkey objects to? Or does President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have other secret desires or fears? The dictator is not an easy ally - especially for those who set store by value-based politics.”

Iltalehti (FI) /

Turkey must not overshoot the mark

Turkey will agree to Sweden's and Finland's accession in the end, Iltalehti predicts:

“Turkey will elect a new president and 600 members of its Grand National Assembly for a five-year term in or before June 2023. Erdoğan and his party are under pressure on the domestic front. ... In addition, the country, which is struggling economically, is dependent on Russia, especially for energy, tourism and food supplies. ... However, there is reason to believe that this process will end well for Finland and Sweden. If Turkey overshoots the mark, it will have serious consequences for the country's relations with the US, among others. Not to mention Nato's credibility.”

Libertatea (RO) /

Worried about a weakening of the south

Turkey's real reason for opposing the accessions is its fear of a shift in the balance of power, writes former Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi in Libertatea:

“Turkey, a key Nato member state in the eastern Mediterranean, naturally wants to negotiate concessions in exchange for its vote. Unwanted in the EU (even though the latter is no longer referred to as a 'Christian club'), Ankara fears that the emergence of a new Nato focal point in the north could outstrip the southern one. Even despite the fact that a weakening of Russia in the Black Sea region - including a potential Ukrainian reconquest of the Crimean peninsula - could give Turkey the advantage of strengthening its position there.”

Liberal (GR) /

Afraid of model democracies

Liberal notes:

“The revival of Nato in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine must be combined with a greater emphasis on the alliance as a force for democratisation if it is to avoid the accusation of being nothing more than an inconsistent military patchwork configuration. The accession of two of the world's most important model democracies will move it in this direction. But it also has implications for Turkey. So far, Nato has had to justify Turkey's membership despite the government's repression of the Turkish opposition and the decline of its democratic institutions. Nato's democratic profile is a necessary component for its survival over such a long period of time.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

The addressee is not Finland

There are always conflicts among Nato partners, Helsingin Sanomat reminds readers:

“Turkey - as well as Croatia and perhaps some other countries - will use Finland and Sweden's application process to pursue its own political goals. The real address on the Turkish message is 'Washington'. ... Turkey doesn't like the fact that the US is supporting the Kurdish troops in Syria. ... The Nato states, led by the US, have assured Finland and Sweden that their admittance to the military alliance will be historically swift. This could lead to the other Nato states having to make concessions to Turkey at the Nato summit in Madrid.”

Svenska Dagbladet (SE) /

Make an attractive offer

Svenska Dagbladet sees room to convince Turkey by being accommodating:

“In the end, the conflict may have to be resolved in the same way as the dispute over who would become Nato chief in 2009, when Turkey finally agreed to Anders Fogh Rasmussen becoming Secretary General after US President Barack Obama promised that Fogh Rasmussen's deputy would be a Turk. Perhaps Obama's vice-president - current US president Joe Biden - can strike a similar deal.”

Yetkin Report (TR) /

Continue asking legitimate questions

The Turkish president should show his stance in all of the country's foreign relations, comments Yetkin Report:

“Now that it's Sweden and Finland knocking on the door because of Ukraine, it is natural that they are not allowed in without answering the question: 'Who's there?'. This is how realpolitik is done. What is important for Turkey is whether this question brings results and whether those who knock on her door for any reason from now on, including Russia, which does not yet consider the PKK a 'terrorist organization', will be asked that question. This is what consistency is.”