Understanding Turkey’s Support to Sweden for NATO Membership

  • Turkey’s support of Sweden’s NATO bid is critical for the strength and security of the alliance, but it also has consequences for Europe given Turkey’s fragile Syrian refugee population.
  • An opportunistic Erdogan will use Turkey’s sympathy for Kyiv to further cement his political position in Ankara and also push for the sale of American F-series fighter jets.

The latest NATO pact between Turkey and Sweden has the potential to spark a large-scale movement of Syrian refugees from Turkey into Europe. While the decision to support Sweden’s NATO candidacy is considered a positive step for the military alliance, it has ramifications for Turkey’s already fragile refugee population.

Mass Migration to Europe

Turkey has been sheltering millions of Syrian refugees for more than a decade, and the recent earthquake aggravated their already poor living conditions. Local animosity, economic insecurity, and a lack of long-term solutions to their migration have all been obstacles for the migrants. With half of Syria’s 3.5 million refugees now staying in earthquake-ravaged areas, their situation has become even more hazardous.

The devastation of houses, hospitals, highways, airports, and industry in these areas exacerbates the refugees’ plight. Tens of thousands of lives have been lost, leaving them scarred and more vulnerable than before. In such cases, the prospect of Sweden’s NATO candidacy leading to future changes in Turkey’s policies or internal dynamics may entice some Syrian refugees to migrate deeper into Europe in quest of better prospects and stability.

Both Turkey and European countries are concerned about this prospective migration scenario. Turkey’s ability to handle and maintain such a huge refugee population is already stretched thin, and any further increase in migration could exacerbate the country’s already-existing problems. European countries, on the other hand, may confront additional demands and complications in managing the arrival of additional refugees.

Further Unrest in Sweden

The large-scale migration may result in civil instability and violence in Sweden. The recent Quran burning incident in Sweden has the potential to incite additional conflict in the country. The crime, committed by an Iraqi man in Stockholm during a police-authorized protest, has prompted concerns about religious tensions and social stability. The same Iraqi man had earlier burned a Quran outside a mosque in Stockholm, and a far-right extremist from Denmark had also staged a similar protest outside the Turkish Embassy in the city.

Religious provocation may heighten emotions and lead to disputes within communities. The burning of Islam’s holy book offends many Muslims and may be interpreted as an attack on their faith. As a result, it may spark rallies, counter-protests, and further fights between opposing factions, potentially escalating to public turmoil akin to what occurred in France.

Sweden, which is famed for its commitment to diversity and tolerance, must handle such situations with caution and sensitivity. While the right to free expression is guaranteed, it should not be used to encourage hatred or violence against any religious or ethnic community. 

Europe is in Grave Danger

1) With Turkey within the European Union and the Schengen Area, as this has been the demand by President Erdoğan to ratify Sweden’s inclusion to NATO, and if this happens, it would mean that 3.7 Million Syrian Immigrants and tens of thousands of immigrants from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and many other Central & Southeast Asian countries can move now freely into EU countries via Turkey. Noteworthy that European Union “only” has, officially, 1 million migrants from Syria (So Turkey has 3.7x more migrants than it) 

2) Infiltration and Operations by  MIT (Turkish Intelligence) and affiliated groups such as the Grey Wolves against target communities of the Turkish Government (ethnically Turkish Kemalist groups, Kurdish diaspora, Gulenist groups, etc) will become incredibly easier now.

3) If really applied, all key figures of the Gulenist movement and the PKK/PJAK/YPS based in Sweden will be handed over to the Turkish Government on terrorism charges, thus dismantling the most relevant far-left organizations of the Kurdish diaspora and Turkish anti-government organizations

4) The possibility of the radicalization of the Kurdish communities, as well as the Armenian and Assyrian Communities, previously welcomed by the Swedish and Central European Social-Democratic Governments, will become the topic of time for future negotiations, given that this Detente between the EU and Turkey will be perceived as a stab in the back by them

5) With the Integration of Turkey into the Pan-European logistics system, it can be concluded that the Turkish economic situation will stabilize in the medium term (taking into account that no major events happen at a regional or global level), which will give not only a political afterlife for Erdogan and his neo-Ottomanist project, but it will fully aid in the final solidification of his control over Turkish political and social institutions.

Is Erdogan defying Russia?

Throughout his whole political career, President Erdogan has been opportunistic. He took advantage of the war (peace talks and serving as a mediator in a grain transaction are just a few examples) and did so in order to elevate his status both inside and outside of Turkiye, which helped him in the recently held election. 

The timing of this shift is intriguing. He has made 3 contentious statements and acts.

1) Calling for Ukrainian backing, the country’s territorial claim, and NATO membership

2) Kyiv and Ankara jointly produce unmanned aerial vehicles.

3) Not informing the Kremlin beforehand and releasing the Azov fighters.

All of this suggests that since the grain deal has expired, President Erdoğan is trying to find another opportunity to further his cause. For the time being, Kyiv appears to be that new opportunity. By demonstrating sympathy to Kyiv, Turkey is also improving its relations with other NATO countries and with other Western countries in the following ways:

1) By helping and demonstrating sympathy to Kyiv, Turkiye hoped to reduce pressure from the West on the issue of Sweden’s NATO membership. At the moment, the West, particularly the USA, would prefer a policy shift of Turkiye towards Russia than Sweden’s NATO membership.

2) President Erdogan also wants to further cement his political position in Ankara. He recognises that Western external meddling poses a threat to these ambitions and that a change in approach may help.

3) Modifying Ankara’s stance also enables them to resume their earlier requests for American F-series fighter jets, which have been on hold ever since the controversial purchase of the Russian S400 air-defence system by Ankara.

In conclusion, Turkey’s choice to back Sweden’s NATO bid is critical for the strength and security of the alliance, but it also has consequences for Europe given Turkey’s fragile Syrian refugee population. 

(The author is a post-graduate student in International Relations at Kalinga University, Raipur. The opinions expressed are the author’s own)

Spread the love

Related Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *