In a reversal of their long-standing neutrality toward any military alliance in Europe, Finland and Sweden have now applied for the membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Will they be admitted into the group?
Observers say the chances thereof are fair. Apparently, Turkey is the only member in the group to oppose their inclusion in it . The other day, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan indicated Ankara might use its membership of NATO to veto any moves to admit the two countries into the group.
Ankara’s main grudge today is Sweden and Finland have ‘supported’ the Kurdistan Workers’ Party ( PKK ), the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and followers of Fethullah Gulen, the groups it views as hostile to the state of Turkey . The Erdogan regime is upset that the Nordic countries have so far not granted approval for the repatriation of over 33 people that Ankara has long demanded.
However, the Erdoğan regime may not insist on opposing the Nordic nations’ entry into the group. Ankara has not allowed its relationships with other states to be adversely affected purely on the ground of the latter’s ties with the groups hostile to it in domestic politics . Its relationship with Moscow is a case in point. In the post-Cold war era, relations between Turkey and Russia improved significantly. The two countries came to rank among each other’s largest trade partners.
Historically, Russia has been very friendly to the Kurds. Catherine the Great commissioned the publication of a Kurdish grammar in 1787. Tsarist officials recognized Kurdish tribes as important actors along Russia’s southern frontiers. From 1804 forward, Kurds played important roles in Russia’s wars with Qajar Persia and Ottoman Turkey.
In 2016, Russia provided anti-aircraft weaponry and rockets to PKK militants. In 2020, Russia invited a YPG delegation . In November last year, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met a YPG delegation in Moscow . Russia also does not recognize the PKK and the YPG as terrorist entities.
Admitting Sweden and Finland into the NATO fold should not be difficult. The two nations became official partners of the group in 1994. Over the years they have become major contributors to it . They have taken part in several of its missions . NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg is favourably inclined to admit Finland and Sweden in the group. American Secretary of State Antony Blinken has promised Washington “would strongly support” the Nordic nations NATO application.
Reports are the authorities in Sweden, Finland, Germany , the United Kingdom and the United States are in touch with the Erdogan regime . In his recent meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson at the White House, American President Joe Biden has already given a full-throated endorsement of efforts by Finland and Sweden to join NATO. Some way is likely to be found out to secure Ankara’s approval for the NATO membership to the Nordic nations.
(The author is a New Delhi-based journalist )