Turkey on Sweden and Finland joining NATO: A 6-month outlook

The Swedish and Finnish NATO application process is stalling due to Turkey’s reluctance to approve a Swedish membership. Following the application, both countries made a deal with Turkey in June 2022 including promises of extraditing Turkish nationals deemed as terrorists by Ankara. These promises are yet met. As Erdogan is determined in his demands, the application process will likely continue to stall. Hence pressure is put on the unity of NATO as a whole which gives Turkey favourable conditions in future negotiations. Further, the process highlights difficult dilemmas for Sweden on a domestic level and for Finland in terms of countering the threat in the east, i.e. Russia.

KJ1: It is highly likely that the Swedish application process will continue to stall in the next 6 months.

  • In accordance with the Swedish Extradition Act, extradition is not an option if the person risks persecution if extradited [source].
  • The most active and visible Kurdish diaspora is found in Sweden [source].
  • Sweden has a long history of support for Kurdish minorities in the Middle East. On April 20th 2021, the Swedish ambassador in Ankara was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry. The reason was a previous meeting between two Swedish ministers and members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) [source].
  • There are indications that Erdogan tries to utilise the situation to put pressure on the U.S. to import F16 fighter jets [source]. At the moment, an agreement is not on paper.
  • The export of F16 fighter jets is problematic due to the conflict between Turkey and Greece over the Aegean Islands [source].
  • On August 11th, Sweden extradited the first Turkish citizen, striking the deal with Turkey [source].
  • On September 30th, Sweden decided to resume arms exports to Turkey after the ban in 2019 [source].
  • On October 5th Turkey summoned the Swedish ambassador after a broadcast from a satire channel on Swedish national television made jokes about President Erdogan [source].
  • On October 6th President Erdogan said that “As long as the terrorist organizations are demonstrating on the streets of Sweden, and as long as the terrorists are inside the Swedish parliament, there is not going to be a positive approach from Turkey towards Sweden” [source].

KJ2: There is a realistic possibility that Finland will proceed and join NATO before Sweden in the next 6 months.

  • After President Putin’s call for mobilisation on September 26th, Finland closed its border towards Russia for tourists and transits [source].
  • Following the acceleration of the Ukraine-Russia war, the Finnish government is recommending that Finnish citizens stock iodine tablets [source].
  • A survey conducted between May 4th to 6th showed strong domestic support for Finland joining NATO [source].
  • On October 6th President Erdogan proposed separate processes for Finland and Sweden due to more positive relations with Finland [source].
  • Russia has increased the number of Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bombers at Olenya airbase near the Finnish border [source].

KJ3: As the application process is stalling, it is likely that Sweden will seek bilateral security partnerships with NATO members in the next 6 months.

  • Sweden is one of the most active partners of NATO with missions in Europe and the Middle East [source].
  • As a member of Nordefco, Sweden has close military ties to both Denmark and Norway [source].
  • The military relations between the U.S. and Sweden are very well developed [source].
  • On March 16th former Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson agreed to deepen defence cooperation with the U.K. [source].
  • On March 10th, the Swedish Armed Forces claimed that the support for Ukraine increased the risk of Russian retaliation [source].
  • Between October 11th and 13th a statement of intent on deepened defence cooperation between Sweden and the Netherlands was signed [source; source].
  • On October 11th a statement of intent on deepened defence cooperation was signed between Sweden and the Netherlands [source].

Intelligence Cut-Off date: October 21 2022.

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