Politics

Why Türkiye opposes Sweden and Finland’s NATO bid


The two Scandinavian nations are guilty of violating rules-based order and harbouring YPG terrorists.

The war in Ukraine has made Finland and Sweden jittery as the security threat coming from their eastern neighbour Russia has become all too real.

Both nations have now turned to NATO, seeking formal membership in the alliance. But any European country aspiring to become a part of NATO must abide by international law and ethics. Unfortunately, both Sweden and Finland fall short of that requirement. 

For any democratic state, combatting terrorism has almost always been an indispensable security priority. And alliances built by democratic partners are based on mutual trust and respect for territorial integrity.

But Sweden and Finland have breached international norms by providing sanctuary to the PKK and its affiliates. The PKK is considered to be a terrorist organisation not only by NATO members but also by Finland and Sweden. 

Since 1984, the PKK has carried out numerous terror attacks in Türkiye, killing at least 40,000 Turkish civilians, including women and children. The group espouses a Marxist-Leninist separatist ideology, attempts to alienate Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin and believes in achieving its goals by terrorising the state and civilians.

Therefore, no one should act surprised as to why Ankara has been opposing Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership bid. A friend of an enemy cannot be your friend. Stockholm and Helsinki’s support to the YPG, a Syrian offshoot of the PKK, directly threatens Türkiye’s national security and undermines the rules-based international order.  

Sweden has contributed at least $376 million to the YPG and hosted an official representative of the so-called Syrian Democratic Council – the political umbrella of the YPG-dominated SDF unit. In a virtual meeting with one of the YPG’s ringleaders Elham Ahmad in 2020, Sweden’s foreign affairs minister Ann Linde voiced support for the inclusion of the YPG in the UN-sponsored constitutional committee. 

In December 2021, Linde had met with Ahmad, the co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council, in Stockholm. In total disregard for the global fight against terrorism, Linde tweeted out a photo of her meeting with him, signalling that Sweden will remain an active partner of the YPG. This is in spite of visual proof depicting Elham in the traditional guerilla uniform posing with other PKK members in front of a picture of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the PKK terror group, in an academy in the Qandil Mountains. 

Finland hasn’t been any different. Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto has also hosted Ahmad in Helsinki. 

In late 2020, a Finnish delegation headed by Ambassador José Tanner, Finland’s envoy to the United Nations and special envoy to Syria, visited YPG-held areas and had an official meeting with the SDF. During the meeting, Tanner praised the terror group for representing “democracy, pluralism, and respect for women’s rights” in the Middle East while advocating for its expansion in the region. 

As a NATO member, Türkiye has repeatedly asked Sweden, Finland and other European and global powers to course-correct their positions vis-a-vis the PKK and its affiliates and desist from undermining Ankara’s efforts to fight terrorism emanating from their ranks. 

To become NATO members and work with Türkiye, which has the second-largest army in the alliance, Sweden and Finland will have to prove their worth and assure Ankara that they will stop assisting the YPG and their likes.  

Although the two nations have made several statements to win Ankara’s support for their membership bid, the Turkish government wasn’t convinced. 

According to the NATO charter, an attack on any NATO member will be seen as an attack on the entire NATO and prompt a joint counterattack against the foe. As Russia has repeatedly threatened Finland and Sweden over their intent to join NATO, it would expose Türkiye to a severe geopolitical risk should it allow the two countries to enter the alliance. 

So far, Finland and Sweden have failed to justify their support for the YPG. They have resorted to weak reasoning that the YPG is a ‘different’ entity that has no relations with the PKK. The argument has no legs since the links between the YPG and the PKK are well established and even accepted by US officials.

Russia and the US have used the same argument to engage with the PKK and its allies. Russia has been providing military support and protection to the YPG, as does the US. In addition, France, Sweden, and Finland have also developed a working relationship with the YPG. This dynamic has put a massive strain on Türkiye’s relations with some NATO members. 

Therefore, Türkiye has signalled that it will not shy away from using its veto right to convince Sweden and Finland to come down heavily on the YPG. 

Ankara has not forgotten its experience of letting Greece rejoin NATO. At the time in the 1980s, the government of Kenan Evren in Türkiye, which was installed through a military coup, allowed Greece to re-join NATO after the country had briefly walked out of the alliance. 

However, later on, all of the promises made to Ankara were forgotten and Greece exploited — still exploits — its NATO membership for its maximalist demands against Türkiye. This experience will be fresh on Ankara’s mind as it demands serious guarantees from Sweden and Finland before accepting them as NATO partners.

For both Sweden and Finland, chickens have come home to roost. The two Scandinavian countries have begun to face the pinch of supporting a terror group. They now face the prospect of losing NATO’s protection and dealing with an existential security threat from Moscow.

To ease Türkiye’s concerns, initial steps should include the cessation of all aid to PKK, YPG and their proxies; turning the budget for YPG into aid for Syrian civilians in northwest Syria; shutting down all PKK-affiliated networks; repatriating wanted persons to Türkiye, and ending the arms embargo on Türkiye.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.

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Source: TRT World





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