Erdogan said Turkey does not support the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan holds a press conference during the NATO Summit at the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on 14 June 2021.

Yves Herman Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has questioned Sweden’s and Finland’s potential membership in NATO, just as both countries are on the verge of applying to join the alliance after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We are following developments with regard to Sweden and Finland, but we do not maintain positive views,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul on Friday.

The nomination of NATO as a new member requires the consensual approval of all existing members. Turkey joined NATO in 1952 and has the second largest army in the 30-nation bloc after the United States. Erdogan referred to the Scandinavian countries, “host members of the Kurdish Workers’ Party or the PKK, which Turkey considers a terrorist group.

States are “home to many terrorist organizations,” Erdogan said. He also pointed out as a mistake NATO’s admission of Greece as a member in 1952. Turkey and Greece have long been rivals and have fought in conflicts against each other, even as members of NATO.

“Like Turkey, we do not want to repeat such mistakes. “The Scandinavian countries are also guest houses for terrorist organizations,” Erdogan said. “They are even members of parliament in some countries,” he added. It is not possible to be in favor.

Sweden currently has six Kurdish members of parliament, representing the Liberals, the Swedish Democrats, the Social Democrats and the Left Party.

CNBC asked the Swedish and Finnish Foreign Ministries for comment.

Finnish leaders on Thursday called for NATO membership “without delay” and neighboring Sweden is expected to follow suit, leaving it almost certain that the Nordic countries will soon abandon their traditional positions of neutrality with both NATO and Russia in favor of accession. to the Mutual Defense Pact.

Public support for joining the organization in both countries has risen since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. 24. Finland has a long border with Russia and Moscow is threatened with dire consequences if they become members of NATO. Opposition to NATO enlargement was one of the reasons the Kremlin cited its invasion of Ukraine, which has been seeking NATO membership for several years.

In response to Erdogan’s comments, Finnish Foreign Minister Peka Haavisto called for patience and a step-by-step process. Swedish Foreign Minister Anne Linde said she was very confident that her candidacy for membership would receive unanimous support from NATO members.

“If we decide to make this alternative (joining NATO), I think we will get very, very strong support from big and important countries that are members with which Turkey has an interest in having good relations,” Linde said.

The leaders of Finland and Sweden have said a decision on whether to apply for NATO membership can be expected sooner or later.

Paul Wernholm Afp | Getty Images

Tim Ash, a strategist at emerging markets at Bluebay Asset Management and a longtime expert on Turkey, believes Erdogan is trying to use leverage as a NATO member to win concessions.

“I guess Erdogan is looking for some quid pro quo here for military supplies, better fighter jets, missile defense and more,” Ash wrote in a note Friday.

“But Erdogan’s position will absolutely not be appreciated in either the western capital or Ukraine. It will be seen as just another sign of Turkey’s withdrawal from the Western union.”

Turkey’s highly strategic air base is home to 50 of the US tactical nuclear weapons that some US officials have suggested were removed due to growing tensions with Washington and Ankara in recent years, focusing in part on Erdogan’s warming ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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