Experts: Turkey's change of heart on Sweden in NATO no big shock

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Source: SCANPIX / EPA

Turkey's change of heart on Sweden's accession to NATO as announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Monday night did not come as a big surprise, some Estonian defense experts say.

Indrek Kannik, director of the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS), told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) that: "Turkey was not interested in obstructing Sweden's accession for a lengthy duration of time, but instead to obtain a degree of certainty from Sweden on some issues, primarily concern Kurdish [terror] organizations."

Rainer Saks, a security expert and former foreign ministry secretary general, agreed, saying: "This process had exhausted itself. Had Erdogan allowed Sweden to say yes past this moment, then he would have found himself in a very foolish situation, with no end to it in sight."

Erdogan's unexpected statement conflating Sweden's NATO accession with Turkey's EU membership process was intended to serve as a reminder to European countries that they have rejected Turkey's membership of the latter, the experts also found, whereas in actual fact, Ankara has forgone these aspirations in any case.

Kannik noted that the move can be seen as an attempt to take the moral high ground, as one of friendliness even as this had not always been extended by some EU nations.

Indrek Kannik. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

A message was also likely sent over the issue of F-16s from the U.S. to Turkey, the supply of which had been blocked by the U.S. Congress.

"A message came from the chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee that they are ready to revisit the topic today already," Kannik said.

Saks concurred, telling AK that: "I am quite convinced that what the president of Turkey said in relation to joining the EU was instead a reference to how some EU member states have acted towards Turkey in relation to this process."

Ankara's recent actions should also be seen in the backdrop of a distancing of itself from Russia, a country with which it has a complicated history, and as also exemplified by the recent release of captured Ukrainian Azov battalion POWs held in its territory – a move which caused chagrin in the Kremlin.

Rainer Saks. Source: ERR

Turkey also joined the rest of the alliance in Vilnius Tuesday in recognizing that Ukraine's future lies inside, and not outside of, NATO, even as any accession process likely lies a long way off.

As such, this makes the country somewhat of a bell-weather for NATO, Ukraine and Western prospects in the longer term, so this week's progress ought to give cause for optimism.

Indrek Kannik said that: "Since Turkey has been trying to play a game of a tight-rope walk between the different sides, once it sees that the Russian side is actually too weak to present a long-term counterbalance to the West, it is natural that Turkey would want to through its lot in with the stronger and more successful camp."

President Erdogan announced the change of tack in Vilnius Monday night, together with Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

While Turkey eventually ratified Finland's NATO membership, which became a reality in April, Ankara had, along with Hungary, held-out on doing the same for Sweden, ostensibly on the issue of the Nordic country's alleged harboring of members of Kurdish terror cells.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera', reporter Mart Linnart.

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