Just last week, we were given the impression that there might be a slight chance of a deal between Turkey and both Finland and Sweden in terms of the latter countries joining NATO. Representatives from Turkey offered a list of “concrete assurances” that they wanted from Sweden in particular. If those assurances were given, it was suggested that Turkey might get their vote, virtually assuring them of rapid acceptance into the alliance. Well, that door appears to have slammed shut over the weekend, if it was ever actually opening at all. The Tyrant of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was back to shaking his fists in an opinion article published by The Economist yesterday. In it, he wrote that Turkey’s own security and that of NATO would be imperiled by allowing those two countries to join. (Associated Press)
Turkey’s president highlighted the activities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party as part of his country’s objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO and said both nations doing so would carry security risks for Turkey.
The group known as PKK has waged a 38-year insurgency against Turkey that has led to tens of thousands of deaths. It is designated a terrorist entity by the United States and the European Union, including Sweden and Finland.”
“Turkey maintains that the admission of Sweden and Finland entails risks for its own security and the organization’s future,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote in an article published by The Economist late Monday.
Erdogan appears to be trying to bolster his argument by conflating two different groups during these negotiations. It comes down to a difference between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (the PKK) and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (the YPG). The PKK operates primarily inside of Turkey and it’s true that they have engaged in domestic terror attacks at times, leading to their designation as a terrorist organization by the United States and most of Europe. But the reason the PKK fights is that their people are heavily repressed and persecuted by the government in Turkey. You can choose for yourself which is the greater of two evils there.
The YPG operates primarily in Syria, however, where they have been key allies to the United States in fighting the Islamic State. There is probably some organic blending of the two groups, but the support of the west for the YPG while condemning the PKK has been a thorn in Erdogan’s side for some time.
Are any of these questions really what is riling up Erdogan, though? It still seems to me that he’s using the PKK as a convenient excuse to avoid making Turkey look like the linchpin that allows NATO to expand further along Russia’s borders. Such a move would no doubt anger Vladimir Putin, who Erdogan remains very close with. And considering the erratic way that Putin has been acting lately, there’s no telling what he might do.
Either way, Erdogan is once again proving to the world that he is an unreliable ally. While the situation in Ukraine persists, everyone else is pretty much forced to pick a side and either support or oppose Russia and Putin’s invasion. Turkey is trying to have it both ways. We can at least be assured that if they were accepted, Sweden and Finland would be far more reliable allies than Turkey has been since Erdogan took power.