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Time is running out for Erdogan on Sweden’s NATO bid

Time is running out for Erdogan on Sweden’s NATO bid


If and when Sweden’s NATO membership materializes, the Baltic Sea will effectively turn into a NATO lake, granting the alliance the ability to cut off waterways to crucial Russian cities such as Saint -Petersburg and key military and strategic sites in places such as the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. It is in Kaliningrad, where the Iskander cruise missiles capable of striking any European capital are stationed, creating a potential spark for a nuclear confrontation.

Sweden’s entry into NATO could present the latter with the potential to disrupt Russian oil exports, particularly from the port of Saint Petersburg. Indeed, Sweden, Finland and Poland would collectively be able to block Russia’s trade corridors. In addition, Sweden’s advanced military technology would strengthen NATO’s military capabilities upon joining.

NATO member Turkey has yet to accept Sweden’s membership, however, with Ankara accusing Stockholm of harboring and supporting Kurdish militants. It is telling that the Turkish Foreign Ministry did not send a representative to the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Oslo last week. But Sweden’s potential membership remains non-negotiable for the expanded 31-member alliance. Deals could be struck with Ankara, but if it chooses to obstruct the offer, the United States and European countries have the means to pressure it.

Sweden’s membership is expected to be determined at the next NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July, where it seems certain that Ukraine’s application for membership will not be officially approved. Nevertheless, important security arrangements will be agreed for Kyiv, which may serve as a stepping stone to eventual membership. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is exerting maximum diplomatic and strategic pressure to obtain unequivocal guarantees, both now and in the future, for his country’s application for membership.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom at the informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Oslo last week.  APE

A Zelenskyy meeting with Erdogan will add pressure on the Turkish leader

Sweden’s resistance to membership is not the only controversial issue surrounding Turkey’s behavior. While it is important to note that any objection from a member state hinders the process of accepting new members, the most important issue concerns Turkey’s place in NATO. This poses a significant challenge to Ankara’s relations with the rest of the alliance and has potentially significant ramifications.

The decision, for now, is to give Turkey until July to make up its mind, assuming that Sweden will have fulfilled its obligations and requirements by then, making it eligible and ready (pending Turkish approval). ). NATO members are doing everything possible to give Ankara a real opportunity to approve the offer in good faith.

But if he remains firm in his position, the United States and European countries are considering various punitive measures that could include the following: formally closing the door on Turkey’s EU membership, stopping the delivery of planes American F-16 fighter jets, suspending plans for Turkey’s military development and creating economic obstacles in Western relations with Turkey.

Instead of provoking a confrontation with the West, Ankara should focus on reassuring the Turkish public, especially given the country’s current economic challenges. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may fear jeopardizing his relationship and mutual dependence on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Nevertheless, obstructing Sweden’s membership comes at a high cost for Turkey, given its implications for European national security and the decision of the United States to prevent Turkey from preventing Sweden’s entry.

If Mr. Erdogan asks for additional concessions and guarantees from both NATO members and Stockholm, he will have to quickly approve Sweden’s membership at the next summit.

Mr. Zelenskyy, who intends to visit Turkey, is an important figure in Mr. Erdogan’s calculations given the desire of Turkish presidents to mediate between Russia and Ukraine. But the meeting of the Ukrainian president with Mr. Erdogan will add to the pressure on the Turkish leader.

In his bid to extract maximum concessions from NATO, Mr Zelenskyy hinted that he might boycott the July summit unless Ukraine’s membership was secured in the future. He also asks for certain assurances, in particular the continuation of military supplies, the training of Ukrainian forces, the upgrading of the army to the standards of NATO armies and the development of contingency plans in case his candidacy for accession would encounter obstacles. The Ukrainian president is also seeking assurances from the United States, similar to those granted to Israel, which include not only an unwavering commitment from NATO to Ukraine, but also from Washington to establish military relations special with Ukraine.

The US Navy's Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge is seen in port in Stockholm, Sweden, on Saturday.  AFP

More from Raghida Dergham

However, his demands could pose a significant problem for Mr. Erdogan, since agreeing to provide security guarantees to Ukraine would damage Turkish-Russian relations.

Meanwhile, speculation continues to swirl around kyiv’s offensive operations against Russian forces over the next two weeks. There are rumors that he may even launch drones targeting the Russian capital, aiming to send a clear message to Russian leaders that the war has reached its doorstep. While this kind of escalation could reintroduce the possibility of Russian nuclear retaliation, there seems to be a belief in the West that Moscow will not risk annihilation by resorting to the nuclear option.

Sweden’s NATO membership, if it were to occur, would alter the military, technological and psychological balance of power in the region. It will serve as a crucial element in cornering Russia at sea, even as Finland, with its vast border with Russia, exerts much-needed land pressure. This is yet another reminder that NATO’s continued expansion, the very object of Russian fear, is occurring in light of the war in Ukraine. Moscow has inadvertently engineered the bypass and isolation of Russia with its immediate neighbors.

The NATO summit in July will likely present further setbacks for Russia, especially if the meeting is followed by an escalation of a war that has already spread beyond Ukrainian soil, into Russian territory.

Posted: 04 Jun 2023, 02:00 PM




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