The process of joining Finland and Sweden to NATO has entered Turkish waters, where it is easy to run aground if you do not know the rules that govern haggling in the bazaars. Ankara has the key because the unanimity of the 30 members, ratified by each Parliament.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan he is a master at a game that demands daring, patience, and stepping back at the last moment. He starts strong: he demands that both candidates cease their political support for the Kurdish armed groups, which he considers terroristsand lift the embargo on arms sales to Turkeyand other products, in punishment for their attacks against Syrian Kurds.
The situation is not new: in November 2015, Erdogan took advantage of the pressure from hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees about Europe fleeing the civil war in their country to obtain nearly 3,000 million euros from the European Union, in addition to political concessions. It was the price to stop the exodus. An similar system uses Rabat with Spainbut on a smaller scale.
Turkey entered NATO in 1952, three years after its founding. It was the beginning of the Cold War. For the US it was a strategic piece for stop the ideological and political expansion of the USSR in the Middle East. That Turkey, led by the Democratic Party of Adnan Menderes, was also a firewall against the most radical Islamist currents. It did not last long: Menderes was deposed in a coup in 1960 and executed.
The military interventions and repression against democrats and dissidents by the different authoritarian governments that followed did not alter its role in NATO. They weighed more geopolitical interests than principles.
When it is said that NATO is a military organization made up of democratic countries, the Turkish case is forgotten. Although Erdogan is a civilian and his government cannot be said to be a dictatorship, he behaves like a autocrat. It violates human rights. It attacks the Kurds, whether they are from Anatolia, northern Iraq or Syria.
NATO wants the accession process for Finland and Sweden to be as fast as possible to close the door on Russian temptation. They don’t want more Ukraines, invaded by wanting to enter the Atlantic Alliance and not yet being in it. It is true that they are different cases because Ukraine is a Slavic country that belonged to the USSR, and that Putin consider own.
Despite the bravado of some Russian leaders and talk show hosts on official television against the West, Putin limits himself, for the moment, to talking about historical error. Although it uses NATO as a propaganda excuse, its engine is the reconstruction of the tsarist empire.
After the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the USSR in 1991, NATO was out of a job. The US has tried to drag it into its chess moves to isolate Chinaits great strategic rival of the 21st century.
The problem is that the main US leaders only know how to think within the logic of a Cold War that no longer exists. The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 woke up NATO, giving it a new sense. It’s the only one military guarantee in force in Europe against Putin. That is why Finland and Sweden abandon their neutrality to make sure. Ukraine teaches us that this is not a game, it is an extremely dangerous situation. To avoid catastrophe, we must be credible in the deterrence.
In this new scenario, Turkey’s role is different from that of 1952. It has more to lose than gain if it were to leave NATO. Drag a complex imperial history and borders that could come to a boil. The lantern has feet of clay.
Erdogan has been in front of a board that is not that of the West for a long time. He seeks personal political gain. He is closer to Iran what of Saudi Arabia in the global conflict between Sunnis and Shiites, but has just resumed its relations with Riyadh, leaving behind the case of the journalist who was dismembered in Ankara, the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi. Petrodollars prevail.
In Syria he has played on the opposite side to ISISbut allows the redoubt of Idlibin northern Syria, preserve the embers of this jihadist group, which could once again be useful in its war against the Syrian Kurds, whom Trump left behind after using them as infantry against ISIS.
Erdogan has one goal: his survival. It will tighten the rope with the West, it will obtain weapons and money, but not the delivery of dissenters. That’s a moral red line, and he knows it. Finland and Sweden are part of their usual game, but the rules have changed. Nothing guarantees that he will stay out of Moscow’s sights.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.