Ex-Turkish Intel Chief: There'll be No Smooth NATO Entry for Sweden & Finland at Madrid Summit
© Sputnik / POOL / Go to the mediabankTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends the Russian-Ukrainian talks at the Dolmabahce Palace, in Istanbul, Turkey
© Sputnik / POOL/
Turkish President Tayyip Ergodan is expected to hold talks with leaders of Sweden and Finland on June 28 over Stockholm and Helsinki's NATO bid, ahead of the Madrid Summit. Ankara has recently blocked fast-track NATO membership for the countries, stressing that they should improve their anti-terror laws first.
"In general, Turkey agrees with the provisions on NATO expansion," says Gursel Tokmakoglu, former head of the Turkish Air Force Intelligence Directorate, retired colonel, and director of the analytical organization "Political Center." "However, members of the alliance do not share Turkey's demands on the issue of terrorism and the fight against it. The issue of membership of Sweden and Finland is very indicative, as it clearly defines Turkey's position and claims within the alliance. In this situation, there is a concrete opportunity for NATO members to understand the definition, criteria and principles of countering terrorist organizations."
Last month Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO while using Russia's special military operation in Ukraine as a security pretext. According to the alliance's rules, all NATO's existing members must approve the Nordic countries' bids to join the pact. While Sweden and Finland anticipated a smooth and quick admission, Turkey pushed the pause button, citing Stockholm and Helsinki's ties with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) designated as terrorists by Ankara, as well as the People's Protection Units (YPG), seen by Turkey as the PKK's Syrian affiliate.
President Erdogan warned that the Nordic states were "home to many terrorist organizations," outlining a set of demands for the aspiring members. In particular, Ankara demanded that Finland and Sweden bolstered their antiterrorism laws; extradite certain individuals with ties to alleged mastermind of the 2016 attempted coup Fethullah Gulen and the PKK; and lift informal sanctions on weapons sales to Turkey, imposed over Ankara's military operation in northern Syria in 2019. There's no rush to admit Sweden and Finland, the Turkish leadership says, citing Greece's 10-year long veto of North Macedonia's membership over a name dispute.
"We don’t see ourselves limited by any timetable," said Ibrahim Kalin, the Turkish president's foreign-policy spokesman, following the 20 June meeting between Turkish, Finnish and Swedish officials on the matter. "The speed, scope of this process depends on these nations’ manner and speed of meeting our expectations."
President Erdogan is expected to present documents exposing the financial and political support provided by Sweden and Finland to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) at the Madrid NATO Summit, according to Turkish newspaper Sabah. Ankara says that it has obtained this evidence during its operations in Syria and northern Iraq. In particular, the newspaper refers to the photographs and serial numbers of Swedish-made AT-4 anti-tank guns provided by the Nordic country to Kurdish militants.
"Ankara is ready to support the NATO countries in their war on terrorism, and seeks to completely eradicate the separatist movement that threatens its national security," says Tokmakoglu. "Sweden needs time to carry out certain internal changes. Even though it is a democratic and developed country, there are a number of significant issues concerning the fight against terrorism which requires [Stockholm's] further action. [Sweden] is too susceptible to violations on this matter by terrorist organizations such as the PKK. Turkey demands that NATO define its position with regard to the fight against terrorism."
According to Tokmakoglu, the Madrid Summit is particularly important as it gives the room for Turkey to raise the terror threat issue for general discussion. Currently, Turkish officials in Brussels are preparing documents for presentation at the summit, notes the retired colonel.
"I believe that the Turkish side will be in favor of postponing the admission of Sweden's application to join the alliance," he says. "Given that some previous candidate countries waited up to 20 years, it can be assumed that, most likely, the decision on Sweden's entry will not be made at the upcoming summit. The negotiation process will continue, during which Sweden will undergo internal transformations."
On June 26, Turkish presidential spokesman Kalin announced that President Erdogan would participate in negotiations with the leaders of Sweden, Finland, and NATO on Tuesday, prior to the summit.
"There will be a four-way summit in Madrid at the leader level in Madrid upon the request of the NATO secretary-general with the attendance of our president," Kalin told the press, adding that the upcoming talks "does not mean we will take a step back from our position."