DW News: Turkey’s resistance is a problem for NATO’s image

DW News: Turkey’s resistance is a problem for NATO’s image
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Though talks have resumed for Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership, Erdogan’s objections to their accession continue. Analysts have told DW News that Turkey’s delays undermine NATO’s interests and weaken it against Russia.

Talks resumed between Sweden, Finland, and Turkey on Thursday regarding the NATO memberships of the two Nordic states. At a press conference at the NATO headquarters, Oscar Stenstrom, Sweden’s chief negotiator in the process, said, “Turkey has recognized that both Sweden and Finland have taken concrete steps” in addressing its requests, and emphasized that the talks will continue.

In DW News, Alexandra von Nahmen writes that Turkey’s months-long objections to Sweden and Finland’s membership bids hurts NATO’s image as it grapples with the “new Russian threat.”

Turkish President Erdogan claimed that Sweden in particular has done little to address Turkey’s security concerns regarding the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a designated terrorist organization in Turkey, the European Union, and the US.

Erdogan had previously requested that Sweden extradite members of the PKK to Turkey, a request that had been refused. However, von Nahmen writes that Sweden has made strides in appeasing Turkey both through changes to its intelligence services and in some provisions of its constitution.

In July, Sweden signed a memorandum with a commitment to “to prevent activities of the PKK and all other terrorist organizations, as well as activities by individuals in affiliated and inspired groups or networks." There is also a new anti-terrorism law that will be put to vote in the legislature soon. If passed, the law would make supporting or financing a terrorist organization punishable by up to four years in prison.

As of yet, the changes have not been enough for Erdogan to give up his resistance. NATO member states who are already discontent with Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian governance and with Erdogan’s close relationship with Russian President Putin believe Turkey is undermining the alliance’s interests.

According to von Nahmen, this frustration among member states is compounded by Turkey’s reputation as an “obstructionist.” In the past, Erdogan has tried to block the appointment of a new NATO chief from Denmark and has also delayed a defense plan for Poland and the Baltic states. Both delays were tied to Turkey’s demands regarding Kurdish fighters. “Erdogan's objections to Sweden's and Finland's membership have now renewed questions about whether the alliance might be better off without Turkey,” writes von Nahmen.

Anna Wieslander, director for Northern Europe at the Atlantic Council think tank told DW that if things continue as they are, “it hurts NATO unity, and then we have a real problem.” Wieslander, who noted that Sweden and Finland are crucial in defense against Russia, further said, "This is really a time for everyone to speak up and say: 'Turkey cannot go on like this.’"

Alper Coskun, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, tells DW that Turkey will eventually allow the membership bids to go through, but that such a decision will not be made before the upcoming Turkish general elections in May.