Turkey Green-lights Sweden’s NATO Bid

The General Assembly of the Turkish Grand National Assembly debates the Bill on the Approval of the Ratification of the Protocol on Sweden’s Accession to nato on January 23.
Metin Aktas /Anadolu via Getty Images

Turkey Green-lights Sweden’s NATO Bid

Turkey’s legislature ratified Sweden’s application to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on January 24. The Grand National Assembly voted 287 to 55 to approve Sweden’s application. The only nato member state yet to ratify Sweden’s bid is Hungary. Once that happens, Sweden will become the alliance’s 32nd member state.

Sweden and Finland announced their bids in 2022 in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Finland joined last spring. But Sweden still has yet to join. All current nato members must give their approval before a new state can join.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been Sweden’s main obstacle. His main concerns were a Swedish arms embargo on Turkey and claimed support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (pkk). Sweden has since relaxed its arms ban and made belonging to the pkk a criminal offense.

Erdoğan also linked Sweden’s nato bid with the United States Congress approving the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey. This hasn’t happened yet, though U.S. President Joe Biden has backed the move.

Turnaround: Despite being a nato member and (on paper) a democracy, Erdoğan has cultivated close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But he also has close links with Europe. Despite the Ukraine war, Erdoğan has maintained his diplomatic balancing act.

But approving Sweden’s nato bid is a major snub to Russia. Putin sees his war as not just against Ukraine but also against the Western alliance. A strong economy on Russia’s doorstep, such as Sweden joining nato, complicates his effort to divide Europe.

Trumpet writer Jeremiah Jacques wrote in our September 2023 issue:

[Turkey green-lighting Sweden’s nato bid is] a vital win for Europe and a major black eye for Putin’s Russia, especially since Russia’s most important land and water transport hub, St. Petersburg, depends on access through the Baltic. Now between Sweden and Denmark, nato could prevent Russian ships from getting in and out of the Baltic and St. Petersburg. Politico summed it up well on July 13: “Sorry Russia, the Baltic Sea is nato’s lake now.”

Sweden doesn’t have it made yet: Hungary still has to approve its nato bid. But Erdoğan’s decision shows he values military cooperation with Europe and will work to strengthen it.

The Trumpet expects the Turkish-European partnership to grow stronger in the days to come. To learn why, read “Turkey Leans Away From Russia and Toward Europe.”