NATO's number two largest military has just come out blasting Finland and Sweden's potential membership bid, with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in televised comments to reporters describing the Scandinavian countries as safe havens for "terrorism".
Turkey is "not favorable" regarding potential membership of Sweden and Finland to NATO, Erdoğan said as quoted in The Associated Press, citing concerns over political activities of backers of separatist Kurdish militants in both countries. "Sweden has become a home for PKK and other terror groups. We don’t view their NATO membership positively," he said according to a Turkish media correspondent's translation.
Erdogan says Scandinavia countries have become a safe haven for terrorism. “They are even members of the parliament in some countries,” he said.— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) May 13, 2022
“Sweden has become a home for PKK and other terror groups. We don’t view their NATO membership positively”pic.twitter.com/OqUMtZEPv2
The move to see both countries, one which shares an over 800-mile border with Russia, enter NATO has intensified since April in direct response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
On Thursday Finland's president Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced the country will apply for NATO membership "without delay" - explaining that "NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance."
But Russia's foreign ministry swiftly vowed a "military and technical response" should Finland become a NATO member, with Russia's Deputy UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy threatening each country more directly by saying, "As soon as Finland and Sweden become members of NATO and military units of the alliance are there, these territories will become a possible target for the Russian military."
As for Erdoğan's fresh negative assessment of the Scandinavian countries' future in NATO, it's the first major and to-be-expected crack of disunity in the alliance sure to come as the topic is hotly debated, also ahead of a major NATO conference set for June, which is expected to take up the matter. It's also looking to be yet another point of deep contention in the US-Turkey relationship, given Washington has sought to give Finland and Sweden 'assurances' of support on the path to membership.
And of course, any decision on new NATO membership must be made by unanimous agreement among the 30-member states.
#BREAKING— EHA News (@eha_news) May 13, 2022
Turkish President Erdogan said,
▪️"(Declaration that Finland will join #NATO) We are currently following the developments regarding #Sweden and #Finland, but we are not in a positive mindset." pic.twitter.com/7V4pnZkbb6
On Friday, Russian state media featured the perspective of a former top Turkish trade representative to Russia, who said Ankara will certainly try and "slow down the process" of the two countries' admission:
Turkey should veto the admission of Finland and Sweden to NATO in order to avoid risks for its own security, Turkish political and economic scientist and former trade representative to Russia Aydin Sezer has told TASS.
"I don’t think that Turkey will veto their admission to NATO," he said. "It may try to slow down the process, but it seems to me that in the end, President Tayyip Erdogan won’t be able to create a force that can speak out against the United States and NATO."
In his words, the Turkish public opposes mainly Sweden’s NATO membership, primarily due to Stockholm’s support of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK, designated as a terrorist organization in Turkey).
"In this regard, circles that favor Eurasianism believe that Turkey should veto Sweden’s membership. I also think so, [it is important] for preventing risks for Turkey’s own security," he added.
But even just a couple other NATO countries entertaining enough doubt (with potential nuclear-armed confrontation with Russia looming in the background) could create enough of an inter-alliance rift to indefinitely stall the issue, also as Moscow without doubt will ramp up its threats - which have lately included talk of bolstering nuclear readiness in the Baltic region.
An additional question also remains: how much extra will this cost US taxpayers in the coming efforts to bribe Turkey into compliance?