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Sweden and Finland Await Turkey’s NATO Approval

By: Marcus Hernandez

March 22, 2023

Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has expressed hope for Turkey’s approval of Sweden’s NATO accession after the parliamentary and presidential elections in May. Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz also emphasized the importance of Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership for their security. Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto expects President Erdogan to confirm Turkey’s approval of Finland’s NATO membership when they meet in Ankara this week.

At a NATO summit in Madrid last year, Turkey, Finland, and Sweden signed a memorandum to address Ankara’s legitimate security concerns, paving the way for their eventual membership. However, Turkey demands that the Nordic countries take concrete steps to combat terrorist groups such as the PKK and the G├╝lenist Terror Group (FET), the group behind Turkey’s failed coup in 2016. According to reports, Sweden is not doing enough to gain Turkey’s approval.

Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has stated that the US intends to strengthen ties with Turkey. He declined to comment on potential arms sales but emphasized that Turkey is a valuable partner with whom they will continue to strengthen ties.

Turkey has requested to purchase 40 F-16 fighter jets as well as 80 modification kits for its current fighters. The Biden administration informed Congress unofficially of its approval of the sale in January, but key lawmakers have vowed to nix the deal over several demands, including making the purchase contingent on Ankara’s approval of Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership bids.

The recent visit of Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley to northeastern Syria also strained ties between Washington and Ankara and prompted Turkey to summon the US envoy to discuss the visit. Milley’s visit was to assess the situation of the almost 1000 troops in Syria and assess things like force protection.

The enduring defeat of ISIS is in the interest of both the US and Turkey, and it’s something that Milley needed to do and is perfectly appropriate for the chairman to go check on how the forces are doing, especially when they’re in harm’s way. However, Turkey has long opposed US

cooperation with the YPG, the Syrian wing of the PKK, a designated terror organization in the US, Turkey, and the EU. The YPG is the principal group behind the SDF, the US’s chief partner in northeast Syria.

Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership bids must be approved for their security. Meanwhile, Turkey remains an important partner for the United States, but the sale of arms and the approval of membership bids may strain relations. It is critical that they find common ground and address concerns in order to strengthen their relationships and ensure regional security.

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