It was a nail-biter, NATO’s welcome of Sweden and Finland into the alliance with just a few hours left before the opening of the alliance’s summit in Madrid.
Nevertheless, most had stopped paying attention to the sluggish negotiations between the applicants and the lone ally who blocked their invitation. The surprising unity was made possible by Turkey getting much of what it wanted – including attention to its unique status within the alliance.
The second half of May began with an exciting tone for NATO: Sweden and Finland, which have so far been confirmed in their military freedom of alliance, submitted their applications for membership in the alliance. Pundits predicted that the alliance would welcome the couple as potential members at the summit in late June. But Turkey quickly interrupted the cheers by withholding its decisive consent and complaining about the two countries’ – especially Sweden’s – support for Kurdish groups.
And now, peace and harmony. What happened? In their trilateral June 28 memorandum—Which NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Biden administration did not play a small part in achieving – the three countries agree that “as future NATO allies, Finland and Sweden will give their full support to Turkey against threats to its national security. For this purpose, Finland and Sweden will not provide support to the YPG / PYD. [Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units and the associated Democratic Union Party]and the organization described as FETO in Turkey. “It continued:” Finland and Sweden unequivocally condemn all terrorist organizations that carry out attacks on Turkey and express their deepest solidarity with Turkey and the families of the victims. “
This was a victory for Turkey. In November last year, Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats lovat to deepen its cooperation with the PYD, a left-wing Syrian Kurdish party that is also a member of Turkey’s PKK. Why would the Social Democrats promise to deepen their cooperation with this unlikely partner? As they tried to find a parliamentary majority for their minority government, and to reach the already precarious position with a parliamentary majority with one vote, they had to reassure Amineh Kakabaveh, a Member of Parliament who had been fired from the Left Party and sat as an independent. And Kakabaveh, a former Peshmerga fighter, took full advantage of the leverage by demanding support for Kurdish things. In fact, she seemed to enjoy her sudden power.
“Everyone is bowing to Erdogan just because of the Putin problem,” she said sa in one of many interviews with international media. But at the end of June, the Swedish parliament ended its term; it will resume after the country’s parliamentary elections in September. Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson was no longer indebted to Kakabaveh, who could not be re-elected, and could sign the memorandum with Turkey. So, of course, could Finland, which was never something that was really a matter for Turkey in the first place.
Although the devil in every intergovernmental agreement is in implementation, the Swedish-Finnish-Turkish memorandum was a sure victory for Turkey. In addition to condemning the support for the PYD, Sweden and Finland promised to lift their suspension of arms exports to Turkey and to “address Turkey’s pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects promptly and thoroughly, taking into account information, evidence and intelligence from Turkey.”
What that means was explained by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkish media: Sweden will have to extradite 73 suspected terrorists to Turkey, he announced. Washington, meanwhile, signaled its willingness to sell Ankara new F-16 fighter jets and modernization kits for their existing F-16s.
Many members of Sweden’s large Kurdish minority – who have come to Sweden as refugees for several decades – were appalled by the agreement. But as a senior official in a NATO member state told me, “Sweden and Finland have learned their first lesson in collective defense”: some members of the collective can be difficult, even unpleasant, but in favor of increased security for all you have to work with them.
Sweden and Finland can, of course, try to minimize the implementation of the memorandum. But in the end, Erdogan’s block of their succession was not the ploy that many initially suspected – a ploy, we thought, to get the F-16. It was really about Kurdish terrorism, a very real national security problem for Turkey. Since Sweden and Finland wanted to join the alliance, Erdogan was given the opportunity to pursue concessions that he had long wanted.
This is a sad turnaround for the Kurdish community – but Sweden had to weigh its national security interests against the interests of a community that mostly lives in the Middle East. And at its summit in Madrid, NATO had to show unity. Vladimir Putin was really attentive.