What awaits Sweden and Finland’s application to NATO after Turkey’s demarche

TThe Uretsky president said that he would not give the green light to Sweden’s accession to NATO. Will Finland decide to continue this process solo and in which case Turkey may change its position — RBC understood

What awaits Sweden and Finland's application to NATO after Turkey's demarche

Why Turkey is again against Sweden joining NATO

On the evening of January 23, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Sweden should not expect Ankara to support the application to join NATO. So he drew a line under the events of January 21, when a rally of Kurds against the country’s entry into the alliance took place in Stockholm, during which the leader of the Danish far-right Hard Line political party Rasmus Paludan burned a Koran at the Turkish embassy. A video showing a Dane surrounded by police officers freely burning a book sacred to Muslims has spread across the Internet. At the same time, two weeks earlier, at one of the actions in the Swedish capital, protesters hung a doll of Erdogan upside down.

“It is clear that those who allowed such meanness in front of our embassy can no longer expect any charity from us regarding their application for membership in NATO,” Erdogan said. He also criticized the Swedish authorities (publicly condemned all these incidents) for allowing Kurdish demonstrations, whose participants used the symbols of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK; considered terrorist in Turkey, also included in the list of terrorist organizations in the EU and the USA).

Finland and Sweden “allow terrorist organizations to rampage on their avenues and streets,” Erdogan also said, but at the same time they expect Turkey to support their applications to NATO. He stressed that Stockholm, until it shows respect for Ankara and Muslims, will not receive such support.

Finland and Sweden jointly applied to join NATO last May. They constantly declared their desire to join the alliance at the same time. Erdogan, however, opposed it. “We cannot say yes to the accession to NATO of those who imposed sanctions against Turkey,” Anadolu agency quoted him as saying. After that, Helsinki, Stockholm and Ankara began negotiations on the elimination of differences. At the end of June, the countries signed a ten-point trilateral memorandum, according to which Stockholm and HelsinkiWe have assumed a number of obligations to ensure Turkey’s security guarantees, as well as to lift the arms embargo on it. Despite this, Ankara has repeatedly accused Sweden that it does not comply with the provisions of the trilateral agreement. In Stockholm, these accusations were denied. The parties held a number of meetings in a trilateral format. Swedish Defense Minister Paul Jonson was supposed to fly to Ankara for talks on January 27, but his visit was canceled by the Turkish side on January 21 amid protests in Stockholm.

For Sweden and Finland to join NATO, all countries of the alliance must ratify a bilateral agreement with them. At the moment, only Turkey and Hungary have not done so. Budapest promised to support the applications and ratify the agreements at the beginning of this year. It is expected that this will happen in February, after the resumption of the work of the parliament.

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Can Finland join NATO without Sweden

Finland currently has no serious problems in relations with Turkey. On Tuesday, in an interview with Finnish Yle, the head of the Finnish Foreign Ministry, Pekka Haavisto, admitted that the country could continue the accession procedure separately from Sweden. Later, he softened his wording, Bloomberg points out, explaining that so far both countries are planning a jointjoining the alliance. Finnish Defense Minister Mikko Savola also spoke in support of the continuation of such an entry. “It is in the interests of Finland, Sweden and NATO to reach the finish line together,” he wrote on Twitter. According to Haavisto, negotiations with Turkey on NATO membership will be put on pause for some time.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said that Stockholm was contacting Helsinki to clarify the meaning of Haavisto’s words; the Swedish foreign Ministry did not comment on Erdogan’s statements.

Finland and Sweden will do everything to jointly continue the process of joining NATO, says Arkady Moshes, director of the research program on the EU’s Eastern Neighborhood and Russia at the Finnish Institute of International Relations. “Obviously, the process will be delayed in any case, not necessarily for weeks. The entry of Finland andSweden will join NATO before the elections in Turkey, which, as we know, will be held in mid-May. If the Turkish position does not change after that, then, I think, the separate entry of the countries into NATO will continue to be perceived as an irreverent option. Other NATO members did not want to split the Finnish and Swedish applications into two, but it cannot be completely ruled out,” he told RBC.

According to Moshes, the possible separate consideration of Finland and Sweden’s applications to NATO will be perceived by them with regret. “This should not lead to a deterioration of relations between Sweden and Finland, because Sweden and Finland are well aware that in this particular issue and in many other issues they are interested in maintaining the most fruitful cooperation,” he said. According to the expert, in the case of separate consideration of applications for membership, it will hardly be possible to talk about the “negative impact” of this process on the relations of the two countries.

Can NATO exclude Turkey from its ranks

In recent years, Turkey’s position has increasingly dissonated with the position of the other members of the alliance. Calls for its exclusion from NATO have been heard within the bloc more than once: for example, in 2018, the reason was Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian S-400 air defense systems, in 2020, a military operation in Syria. But the discussions never turned into a practical plane.

The North Atlantic Treaty of 1949, the founding document of NATO, does not contain a procedure that allows excluding a country from the alliance, and there have been no such precedents in its entire history. However, Article 13 presupposes the possibility of voluntary withdrawal from the agreement. To do this, it is necessary to notify the US government, which acts as the custodian of the treaty, and Washington will already notify all other members of the alliance.

Theoretically, if NATO member countries want to exclude Turkey from the alliance, this decision can be made within the framework of the North Atlantic Council, the highest governing body, but it must be consensual, which means Turkey can veto. However, if it is recognized as a country that regularly violates the North Atlantic Treaty (in particular, Article 2, which obliges the parties”to promote the further development of international relations of peace and friendship by strengthening their free institutions”), then the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties may be involved in this case. Then cooperation with Turkey within the framework of NATO may be suspended by the North Atlantic Council.

Can Turkey’s position change after the presidential elections

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto urged journalists to take the current situation calmly and wait for the presidential elections in Turkey scheduled for May 14.

“Could Turkey’s position change if President Erdogan loses the election? Yes, definitely. The new opposition government has changed its position,” Huseyin Bagji, president of the Institute of World Politics, professor of the Department of International Relations at the Middle East Technical University of Turkey, told RBC. In his opinion, there is no need to wait for a change in Turkey’s position before the elections, althoughAnkara will be under pressure from other countries. “The US is already exerting pressure. Definitely all EU countries, from Germany to France, will try to exert pressure, but we should not forget that Hungary also did not give its consent. Turkey probably won’t do that before the May 14 presidential election. After the last few days of the crisis, it is unlikely that there will be any negotiations before this date,” he said.

The head of the Department of Political Science and International Relations of Syutchu Imam Kahramanmarash University in Ankara, Torgul Ismail, in a conversation with RBC, pointed out that Sweden bears all responsibility for the crisis, so the solution of the problem depends only on it. “Turkey does not violate anything, Sweden is the violator. No one has the right to dictate to Turkey how to act. There is an agreement, and its parties must fulfill its conditions,” he explained.”Provocative actions, of course, cause discontent among Turkish society, they interfere with Sweden itself and complicate its process of joining NATO. I think they are related to internal processes. Most likely, Sweden no longer wants to join NATO, but cannot talk about it,” the expert concluded.

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