Turkish Parliament to Vote on Sweden’s NATO Membership

Ankara (AFP) – After more than a year of delays that strained its ties with Western allies, Turkey’s parliament is expected to finally approve Sweden’s membership of NATO this week. The vote, which was previously postponed multiple times, could take place as early as Tuesday, according to CNN Turk. Another source suggests that it might be held on Thursday.

Sweden and its neighbor Finland initiated the accession process in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine almost two years ago. Finland became the 31st member of the US-led defense alliance in April of last year, thereby doubling NATO’s border with Russia and bolstering the defenses of the Baltic nations that joined following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

During the Cold War, Sweden and Finland pursued a policy of military non-alignment in the face of the confrontation between Moscow and Washington. However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has fundamentally altered geopolitical calculations, leading to Sweden and Finland seeking NATO membership.

The delay in Turkey’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership seems to stem from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s nuanced stance toward Moscow. Turkey has maintained and expanded trade with Russia while also providing Ukraine with essential arms. Erdogan has been one of the few Western leaders to maintain regular meetings and phone conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Reports suggest that Putin might make his first wartime visit to Turkey next month.

Initially, Erdogan’s objections to Sweden’s NATO bid centered around Stockholm’s supposed acceptance of Kurdish groups that Ankara considers as “terrorist.” In response, Sweden has tightened its anti-terrorism legislation and implemented other security measures demanded by Erdogan. Last month, the Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs committee approved Sweden’s bid.

However, Erdogan further insisted that the United States deliver a batch of F-16 fighter jets for Turkey’s aging air force, a demand he discussed with US President Joe Biden last month. US officials argue that if Sweden’s NATO accession goes through, Turkey’s request could receive the necessary congressional approval. This position was reaffirmed by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his recent visit to Istanbul.

Analysts have also linked the continued delays in Turkey’s ratification to Erdogan’s anger at Washington for its support of Israel in its conflict against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. Erdogan has emerged as one of the harshest critics in the Muslim world regarding Israel’s response to the October 7 attack by militants.

In conclusion, Turkey’s parliament is set to vote on Sweden’s NATO membership, which marks an important step in strengthening the alliance’s defense capabilities and addressing regional security concerns. The delayed ratification has strained Turkey’s relations with Western allies, but it appears that progress is finally being made.