Finland gets Turkey nod to join NATO - GulfToday

Finland gets Turkey nod to join NATO

A NATO flag is seen at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. File/Reuters

NATO requires that all members of the alliance agree to the admission of a new member.

Turkey’s parliament had on March 31 voted in favour of Finland joining NATO, the last country in the 30-nation Western military alliance to do so. Ankara is still holding back on Sweden, which too has sought admission to NATO. Both Finland and Sweden had remained neutral ever since NATO was formed in 1949, but they decided to join in in the wake of Russian invasion of Ukraine last February. Turkey did not object to these two countries joining NATO but it wanted the two countries to end support to the Kurdish rebels and another group which is suspected to have been behind the 2016 coup attempt.

An understanding has been worked out between Turkey and Finland over Ankara’s security concerns. The United States had been pressuring President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to concede but Erdogan held out, and he is still holding out on Sweden. Turkey is not the only country which has reservations on the NATO membership of Sweden and Finland. Hungary too has reservations. It too gave the nod only on March 27. And Budapest too is holding out on Sweden. NATO requires that all members of the alliance agree to the admission of a new member. NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg tweeted, “I welcome the vote of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey to complete the ratification of Finland’s accession. This will make the whole NATO family stronger and safer.”

Turkey occupies a unique position. Though it is the member of the Western military alliance of NATO, it is one of the few NATO members which is close to Russia, and Erdogan has been mediating between Russia and Ukraine, through the United Nations, in working out a deal by which Ukraine has been enabled to export its grain and fertilisers from Black Sea ports. Though NATO has been in the forefront of the opposition to Russia in the Ukrainian war, it is not in a position to openly declare war against Russia because that would mean an open war between Russia and the West. NATO is forced to hold itself back from entering into hostilities against Russia. What triggered the Russian war against Ukraine is the issue of Ukraine being given membership of NATO. And NATO cannot afford to give membership to Ukraine because that would entail war between NATO and Russia, and all the 30 members of NATO, including Turkey, would be at war with Russia through treaty obligations. It is this delicate situation where NATO supports Ukraine but does not engage directly in a war with Russia that leaves Turkey enough elbow room to play the mediator’s role.

The expansion of NATO is seen as necessary to defend Europe against Russia, especially after the Russian invasion in Ukraine, and that is why the request for membership by Sweden and Finland is seen as a European security concern. Apparently, Turkey does not share the same apprehension. That is why, Ankara used the opportunity to pressure Finland and Sweden to pay attention to Turkey’s own security concerns. Analysts are likely to argue that members of NATO cannot use their partisan concerns, however, legitimate, to jeopardise the common security concerns of the military alliance.

The European fear of Russia on the security front might appear short-sighted and even obsessive, but it is indeed the European state of mind. Turkey, as a non-European member of NATO, will not overtly empathise with the European security concerns. Interestingly, even east European countries like Hungary do not see eye to eye with the western European countries’ obsession with Russia. That strengthens Turkey’s own position in the alliance. It is not the lone dissenter in NATO.


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