Geopolitics Military Affairs

Turkey agreed to the entry of Sweden into NATO

Tomáš Iliev

On Tuesday, 23 January 2024, the Turkish Parliament approved Sweden’s candidacy for NATO membership. Thus, after long months of waiting, the Nordic country moved closer to joining the Alliance. 

Turkish members of Parliament agreed to ratify the protocol that makes Sweden’s entry into NATO available by a vote of 287 to 55, with 4 abstentions. The document is already valid because it was published in the official gazette of the Parliament. 

NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg expressed satisfaction with the ratification because, according to him, Sweden has fulfilled its obligations, and its membership will make NATO more powerful. According to Stoltenberg, Sweden’s entry will increase NATO’s defensive capabilities and provide space for potential operations in Northern Europe.

Tuesday’s vote cleared one of Sweden’s last two hurdles to joining the Alliance. For now, Hungary thus remains the last member state blocking Sweden’s entry into NATO. Hungary is blocking Sweden’s entry on the grounds that lawmakers are unhappy with statements by Swedish politicians about the poor state of Hungarian democracy. However, immediately after the Turkish ratification, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced that he had invited his Swedish colleague Ulf Kristersson to visit Hungary to negotiate with him about the terms of Sweden’s entry. Moreover, already a day after the vote, Viktor Orbán assured NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that Hungary would not block Sweden’s entry into NATO.

Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership back in May 2022 after Russian troops invaded Ukraine. Finland achieved NATO entry in April 2023, doubling the Alliance’s border with Russia. However, Sweden faced many obstacles on its way to accession, especially from Turkey and Hungary.

​Ankara argued its rejectionist position by disagreeing with Sweden’s stance on groups that Turkey considers threats to its national security. Turkey has demanded from Stockholm a tougher attitude towards members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and members of the network to which Ankara attributes responsibility for the failed coup of 2016. This is also why Sweden tightened its anti-terrorist legislation and agreed to closer cooperation with Turkey on security issues, but also by supporting Turkey’s ambition to revive its quest for EU membership.

However, President Erdogan tied the ratification with benefits for the Turkish armed forces in the form of a request for US Congressional approval to buy 40 new F-16 fighter jets and kits to modernise Turkey’s existing air fleet. Erdogan also called on Canada and other NATO allies to lift arms embargoes on Turkey.

In February 2022, US President Joe Biden delivered information to Congress about the intention to sell F-16 machines to Ankara. In response to this move, an opposition formed in Congress. Critics of the sale did not like Ankara’s lack of support towards NATO on the issue of the Ukrainian conflict. At the same time, the opposition has made it a condition that it will not support the sale until Turkey ratifies Sweden’s membership in NATO. They also asked for guarantees that Ankara would not deploy the supplied aircraft against Greece, which is also a member of NATO.​

Despite the initial hesitation, the situation has developed to the stage where the Biden administration is likely to succeed in making the sale of the fighter jets. Joe Biden himself is currently trying to urge recalcitrant Democrats and Republicans to approve the sale. It is also necessary for the US Department of State to formally notify Congress about the sale of fighter jets. However, it is still uncertain how several members of Congress will react even after Turkey approves Sweden’s entry into NATO.

However, the Biden administration must also take into account the interests of Greece, a stable NATO member that has had strained relations with Ankara since Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974. The Hellenic Air Force is currently interested in acquiring modern fighter jets, with ongoing discussions focusing on the acquisition of modern F-35 fighters. It is possible to assume that by approving the sale of F-16 fighters in Congress, the sale of F-35 to Greece will also be approved. However, Turkey considers it a potential threat and, therefore, wants to modernise its air force, too. The United States thus found itself in a situation where it had to handle several problems at once – Sweden’s entry into NATO and, at the same time, satisfy the needs of hostile allies on NATO’s southeastern wing. The USA, and especially NATO, will probably gain a new member in the form of Sweden, which will bring considerable benefits to the Alliance. As Secretary General Stoltenberg has already reminded, NATO will gain an ally that is able to quickly respond to threats, especially from Russia, as its location predisposes it to this. It is likely that the Hungarian veto will be released through negotiations and concessions. Sweden’s entry into NATO would ease the diplomatic stalemate that has clouded Turkey’s relations with the United States and NATO and hampered Western efforts to isolate Russia over its war in Ukraine. Despite Ankara’s latest steps regarding Sweden, the US, with its decision to sell modern fighter jets, can achieve for itself and its partners in NATO an increase in the defence capabilities of the Alliance, calming of relations with Turkey and, last but not least, greater support for Ankara in relation to the conflict in Ukraine. At a time when NATO faces such real threats, the chance to obtain the mentioned benefits is so unique that it does not need to be repeated.​

The Latest

Mapping Hungarian Influence in Slovakia and the Czech Republic

In today’s world, we are facing several parallel and simultaneous crises, be it climate crisis, economic volatility or security. It is increasingly important to focus analytical resources and energy on…

With dragon on the neck: how (not) to face the growing Chinese competition in the car industry

The forthcoming decision to increase EU tariffs on selected Chinese electric vehicles is unlikely to systematically benefit the European car industry and might even cause considerable damage. Instead, enhancing its…

The Georgian government delegitimises the protests with deceptive Facebook ads. The President vetoed the bill on “foreign agents”

In early April 2024, Georgian Dream, the ruling party in Georgia, pushed through a controversial law on “foreign agents” in the parliament. It was passed in all three readings and…