Why the joining of NATO by Sweden and Finland is being opposed by the Turkey

Contact Counsellor

Why the joining of NATO by Sweden and Finland is being opposed by the Turkey

  • Sweden and Finland (SweFin), the two Nordic countries that have historically stayed out of military alliances, have formally applied to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
  • Turkey, a NATO member since 1952, has said it would oppose the Nordic countries joining the bloc
  • It has been cited that these countries harbour “terrorist groups” - a reference to Kurdish insurgent outfits

Reasons for long-term neutrality of Sweden and Finland

  • After the Swedish-Norwegian war, Sweden has adopted neutrality as the cornerstone of its foreign policy as it suited its interests better in an increasingly hostile neighbourhood. It stayed out of the two World Wars and the Cold War.
  • Having suffered the after-effects of two wars fought with Russia in past, Finland did not want to get sucked into another great power contest.
  • Like 19th century Sweden, Finland also adopted neutrality as the centrepiece of its foreign policy.

Factors responsible for SweFin’s NATO application

  • Russia’s attack on Ukraine and disturbing its sovereignty
  • Both countries are of the opinion that the alliance would act as deterrence against potential future attacks.
  • Both have already developed deep ties with the West and are members of the European Union.
  • They hold joint military drills with NATO, share intelligence and have supported NATO’s military missions abroad.
  • They did not formally seek membership until now because they did not want to upset the security status quo in Europe.
  • They also feared Russian retaliation. But that status quo has been altered by the Russian invasion.
  • And the possibility of Russian military retaliation is very less now because Russian troops are fighting a seemingly prolonged war in Ukraine.
  • This opened the door for both SweFin and NATO.

Russia’s position on this move

  • Russia has sought to play down the development saying the Nordic countries joining NATO does not pose any immediate threat to his nation, but warned against NATO moving weapons to these countries.
  • While it’s not clear what it would do in the long term, its immediate response was to cut electricity exports and gas supplies to Finland.

Reasons for turkey’s opposition to this move

  • Sweden is “a nesting ground for terrorist organisations” according to the Turkey’s president
  • It is being alleged that Sweden, and Finland maintain close ties with Kurdish militias, particularly the YPG(armed wing of Syrian Kurdistan which controls parts of the Kurdish region in Syria).
  • It also alleges that the countries are hosting supporters of the Fethullah Gulen movement, a religious sect led by the U.S.-based Gulen who is accused by Ankara of being the mastermind behind the failed 2016 coup against the president of Turkey.
  • Sweden and Finland have also refused to extradite 33 people wanted by Ankara.

Way ahead

  • If Turkey walks the talk and blocks the SweFin bid, that would leave the Nordic countries in an awkward spot
  • They have already given up neutrality, but they won’t be getting NATO’s protection.
  • Even if the application goes through, it would take time for these countries to be formally inducted into the alliance.
  • So the time taken for the process to be completed offers a window to Russia whose response would depend on whether its troops could meet their military objectives in Ukraine and whether they could do it fast.

Exam Track

Prelims takeaway

  • NATO
  • Nordic countries

Mains track

Q. Discuss about the reasons behind SweFin's decision of joining NATO and why Turkey is opposing it?