Amid the Russia-Ukraine war, Sweden and Finland are all set to join the Nato alliance overcoming a major hurdle. Sweden and Finland’s Nato bid was nearly torpedoed by Turkey, a Nato member itself, which used its veto powers to block their entry. Now, however, Turkey has lifted the veto but only after imposing humiliating conditions on the two Nordic nations.
Nato members are in a celebratory mood ever since this “breakthrough” but tough questions are catching up because in reality, the Nato meeting in Madrid and the three-way deal signed by the Nordic nations and Ankara, simply reaffirmed the fact that the West is ready to kneel before the rogue Nato member that has no love lost for its peers in the alliance. Wildly inappropriate concessions have been made to win over the Erdogan-led regime in Ankara by self-appointed guardians of human rights and democracy. Kurdish dissidents have been thrown under the bus to fulfil Nato’s expansionist agenda. To simplify, the bellicose regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been handed over a major diplomatic and strategic victory on a platter. To add to that, Sweden will be lifting its arms export embargo on Turkey, and the United States has expressed a newfound willingness to cater to Turkey’s demands for the F16 aircraft, after nearly four years of what was seen as a silent, unannounced embargo.
President Erdogan’s office stated that Turkey “got what it wanted” from Sweden and Finland. And indeed, it did. A look at the signed document— a loosely worded submission, with a clear bent in Turkey’s favour, shows how Sweden and Turkey folded with the blessings of the United States and other Nato members.
“As prospective NATO Allies, Finland and Sweden extend their full support to Turkey against threats to its national security,” the trilateral agreement said. “To that effect, Finland and Sweden will not provide support to the YPG/PYD, and the organization described as FETÖ in Turkey,” it went on. Most notably, Sweden and Finland have agreed to “address Turkey’s pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects expeditiously and thoroughly.” This is where the two prospective NATO allies have made a highly unpopular promise to Ankara, given that Sweden has over 100,000 Kurdish people and nearly 16,000 Kurds reside in Finland. Among them are refugees fleeing persecution, dissidents and important political figures who have escaped hostile regimes of Iraq, Syria and Turkey.
This, however, does not mean that Turkey will not demand more concessions in the weeks to come. Soon after the agreement was signed, Turkey announced that it would now push for the extradition of 33 “terror suspects”. And while this concessions-laden agreement is not legally binding, Turkey is expected to test the commitments of the two Nordic states and can still scuttle their Nato entry until they are formally inducted. Erdogan has already announced that he could still torpedo their entry if they fail to implement the deal. “If they fulfil their duties, we will send it (their application) to the parliament. If they are not fulfilled, it is out of the question,” said the Turkish President. Naturally so, the worries of the Kurdish diaspora in Sweden and Finland are not misplaced.
Just as Sweden and Finland decided to shun neutrality and join Nato, much to Russia’s chagrin and to the satisfaction of the West, Turkey played spoilsport and vowed to scuttle their prospects citing their support to Kurdish groups in Northern Syria which are currently fighting off occupational Turkish forces. Turkey faces a Kurdish insurgency largely near its southern border led by the PKK which is seen as a terrorist organisation by Turkey. In Kurdish lands beyond, especially in northern Syria, groups like the US-backed YPG and their political affiliates have enjoyed the support of the political establishments in Sweden and Finland. It is to be noted that Kurdish militias in Syria bravely kept ISIS on its toes and were crucial in ensuring the terror machine’s defeat. They also developed alliances with the US and other Western powers in this pursuit. Divided among Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, and facing persecution as minorities, the Kurds have long demanded their own state, giving birth to political and armed movements across Kurdish lands.
Seen as a rogue outlier in Nato, Turkey found and acted upon the opportunity to get the West to support its military operation in northern Syria. Turkish forces and alleged mercenaries occupy parts of this region. A vast array of human rights abuses was reported during the peak of its military intervention and Ankara faced condemnation from the Western world. All major NATO members including Germany, France, UK and Canada have refused arms sales to Erdogan’s Turkey. Tensions further escalated when Turkey stepped up its belligerence towards fellow Nato member Greece in the eastern Mediterranean and the West largely backed Athens through this tussle. The list of Turkey’s excesses can go on, but the West has decided to overlook all that now. US President Biden’s own stance on Turkey used to be one of admonishment. Today, that seems to change with Ankara’s new leverage in the game.
The West also shares the grouse that Turkey has not joined in on the sanctions spree on Russia and is instead helping Russia evade sanctions by allowing troubled Russian oligarchs to park their money in Turkey’s economy. But this has also taken a backseat for now.
What’s worse is, the persecution of the Kurds in Turkey, who comprise almost 20% of its population, has also been conveniently overlooked this time around. Turkey rejects the cultural and political rights of the Kurds and has spent most of the last century denying the existence of Kurds, even labelling them “mountain Turks” in 1980 and banning words like ‘Kurds’ and ‘Kurdistan’. In fact, Turkey has been repressing Kurdish rebellions for over two centuries. Akin to the genocide of Armenians, Kurds have been massacred and expelled from their villages throughout recent history.
Just this year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey violated the freedom of expression of lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish political party by stripping them of their parliamentary immunity from prosecution. All these concerns seem to have evaporated into thin air as the US-led Nato endorses Sweden and Finland’s concessions to Turkey. The Western world and brazen hypocrisy are no strangers, but this new low really takes the cake.