Turkey Ends Opposition and Supports Sweden’s NATO Membership, Boosting Alliance Strength

In a significant development, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to support Sweden's bid to join NATO, ending months of opposition. The announcement came after talks between NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, President Erdogan, and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.[0] Stoltenberg stated that President Erdogan has agreed to send Sweden's NATO accession protocol to the Turkish parliament for ratification. This decision paves the way for Sweden's membership in the military alliance.

The opposition from Turkey was primarily due to concerns about Sweden's efforts to combat Islamophobia and calls for cracking down on Kurdish groups in the country.[1] However, after discussions, the concerns of both countries were reconciled. Stoltenberg expressed satisfaction with the outcome, highlighting the close cooperation between Turkey and Sweden in addressing Turkey's security concerns.

Sweden's application to join NATO was made alongside Finland's in 2022, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.[2] Finland's accession was approved earlier this year, but Sweden faced hurdles due to Turkey's objections. Turkey accused Sweden of supporting Kurdish militants and imposed weapons embargoes on the country.[3] However, Sweden made significant efforts to address Turkey's concerns, including amending its constitution, changing its laws, and expanding counterterrorism cooperation against the PKK.[4] These efforts were acknowledged by Stoltenberg, who emphasized that Sweden's cooperation with Turkey in the fight against terrorism would continue beyond accession to NATO.[5]

The decision to support Sweden's NATO membership is seen as a historic step that benefits the security of all NATO allies. It strengthens the alliance at a critical time and enhances defense and deterrence in the Euro-Atlantic area.[3] The news has been welcomed by US President Joe Biden, who expressed readiness to work with President Erdogan and Turkey on enhancing defense.[6]

While Turkey's support for Sweden's membership is a significant development, another holdout remains in the form of Hungary. It is expected that Hungary will follow Turkey's lead and approve Sweden's membership once Turkey does. The details of Hungary's position on this matter are yet to be clarified.[7]

The decision to support Sweden's NATO membership is not only important for Sweden but also for the alliance itself. It increases NATO's political strength as the pillar of defense in Europe and the transatlantic area.[4] It also marks a diplomatic victory for President Erdogan, who has been leveraging the issue to improve Turkey's relations with the West.

In addition to supporting Sweden's accession to NATO, Turkey has agreed to actively support efforts to reinvigorate Turkey's EU accession process. This includes modernizing the EU-Turkey customs union and visa liberalization.[8] The move demonstrates a willingness to strengthen Turkey's ties with the European Union.

Overall, the decision to support Sweden's NATO membership is a significant step forward for both countries and the alliance as a whole. It represents a diplomatic breakthrough and sets the stage for Sweden's formal inclusion as the 32nd NATO member.[9] With Turkey and Hungary expected to ratify Sweden's accession, the path is now clear for Sweden to join the military alliance, enhancing NATO's defense capabilities and strengthening Euro-Atlantic security.

0. “Turkey Agrees to Back Sweden's NATO Bid in Boost to Alliance” Bloomberg, 10 Jul. 2023, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-07-10/turkey-agrees-to-advance-sweden-s-nato-bid-official-says

1. “Putin Ally Delivers Blow to Russia” Newsweek, 10 Jul. 2023, https://www.newsweek.com/putin-ally-delivers-blow-russia-1812072

2. “NATO's Naval Noose Tightens Around Russia” Forbes, 11 Jul. 2023, https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidaxe/2023/07/10/sweden-finally-gets-the-nato-nod-and-a-naval-noose-tightens-around-russia/

3. “Sweden's path to NATO membership cleared after Turkey greenlights bid” CNBC, 11 Jul. 2023, https://www.cnbc.com/2023/07/11/swedens-path-to-nato-membership-cleared-after-turkey-greenlights-bid.html

4. “Turkey agrees to back Sweden's NATO bid, secretary general says” NBC News, 10 Jul. 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/turkey-agrees-back-swedens-nato-bid-alliance-secretary-general-says-rcna93519

5. “Sweden still not ready for NATO, Erdoğan tells Biden” POLITICO Europe, 9 Jul. 2023, https://www.politico.eu/article/sweden-not-ready-for-nato-turkey-erdogan-tells-us-joe-biden/

6. “Opinion | How the Biden administration sealed the Sweden deal with Erdogan” The Washington Post, 10 Jul. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/07/10/biden-erdogan-turkey-sweden-nato/

7. “Hungary all-but drops objection to Sweden's Nato bid” EUobserver, 4 Jul. 2023, https://euobserver.com/world/157229

8. “Turkey backs Sweden's Nato membership – Stoltenberg” BBC, 10 Jul. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-66160319

9. “Turkey clears way for Swedish NATO membership, in abrupt about face” Breaking Defense, 10 Jul. 2023, https://breakingdefense.com/2023/07/turkey-clears-way-for-swedish-nato-membership-in-abrupt-turn-around/