By: Ethan Erickson Edited by: Shane Masterson August 30, 2023
On July 10, the night before the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit in Lithuania, Turkey agreed to allow Sweden into the alliance. Turkey has continually blocked Sweden’s bid, alleging that Sweden has let members of Kurdish terrorist groups continue to operate within the country. Additionally, Turkey has claimed that important Swedish government officials have engaged in or allowed Islamophobic demonstrations.
According to NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, Swedish representatives have been receptive to these demands and have “worked closely… to address Turkey’s legitimate security concerns”. United States President Joe Biden has also helped facilitate talks between the countries and played a key role in general at the summit in Vilnius. Some important concessions include changes to Swedish law, the resumed exportation of military goods to Turkey, and even an amendment to the Swedish Constitution.
While these Turkish concerns appear to be valid, there is indication that they were holding out for other reasons. It has been suggested that President Biden has offered to sell F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, along with other high-grade military equipment. To do so, he would have to try and overcome the congressional impasse that restricts the exportation of such technologies. This would allow Turkey to boost their military capabilities significantly and provides a more clear incentive for them to let Sweden into NATO. Another potential motive for Turkey is distance from the quite-unpopular Russia through alignment with the West.
While the move has still not been formally completed, the cooperation of Turkey represents a step in the right direction. With the mediation and encouragement of the United States, Turkey now seems eager to add a new ally. The addition of Sweden to NATO would bring the count to 31 members, further strengthening their mutual defense.
This is more important now than ever before, as the war in Ukraine continues to loom over Europe and questions about Ukraine’s membership hang in the air. While there wasn’t much of a function for NATO in previous years, Russia’s aggression has given new purpose and life to the alliance. To the relief of Ukrainian President Zelensky, the member states at the Vilnius Summit agreed on a path to membership for Ukraine after the conflict with Russia ends. In addition, a NATO-Ukraine Council was created where decisions on the war and the eventual inclusion of Ukraine in the organization can be explored. Other issues discussed include defense spending and the threat of China on the global stage, bringing national security to the forefront.