Turkey extracted a slew of concessions for letting Sweden join NATO, including coveted F-16 fighter jets from the US
Turkey's president, Recep Tayyp Erdogan, drove a hard bargain in making his U-turn, and was seemingly rewarded with coveted F-16 fighter jets from the US.
"Completing Sweden's accession to NATO is a historic step that benefits the security of all NATO Allies at this critical time. It makes us all stronger and safer," said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, on the eve of the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.
The announcement undoubtedly gives a massive boost to the 31-member alliance as it seeks to project an image of unity in the wake of Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
It also hugely strengthens its presence in the Baltic region where states have long lived in fear of Russian aggression.
For more than a year, Turkey had blocked Sweden's bid to join NATO, citing its alleged sheltering of Kurdish militants Ankara accuses of terrorism.
Hours after Turkey removed its objections to Sweden's NATO membership, US Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the transfer of US F-16 fighter jets to Turkey would go ahead in a move widely seen as linked to Turkey's decision.
"Erdogan knew that Vilnius was the moment he could extract maximal concessions from the West," Asli Aydintasbas, a foreign-policy analyst and fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote in The Washington Post.
She added that Turkey had long been seeking to modernize its air force, and that "behind all the public bluster, Erdogan's most important ask has long been clear: He needs the United States to sell him F-16s."
Under NATO's rules, all members must agree if a new nation is to be accepted into the alliance, handing Erdogan considerable leverage as he stalled Sweden's membership.
It's not the first concession Erdogan managed to extract, overturning Western wariness towards Turkey for its ties with Russia and Erdogan's repressive domestic policies.
Turkey has pressured Stockholm to take action against Kurdish groups it deems to be terrorists. The Muslim minority group has long had a tumultuous relationship with Turkey and Sweden buckled under pressure, overhauling its terrorism laws. It also said it will extradite some Kurdish individuals to Turkey, The BBC reported.
Erdogan has also attempted to use the NATO impasse to renew a push for Turkey's membership of the EU. Turkey has been seeking membership in the economic bloc for decades, but negotiations have been indefinitely stalled over concerns about the authoritarian drift of Turkey under Erdogan's presidency.
Overall, Erdogan has sought to perform a balancing act amid the war in Ukraine, retaining ties with Russia's President Vladimir Putin and refusing to impose sanctions on Russia. Yet also seeking to increase his influence in NATO and win concessions from Western allies.
"Of course there is an escape hatch," said Rich Outzen, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council."Erdogan passed the ball to the Turkish parliament and approved nothing directly—but the pieces are in place now for a good transactional deal that helps NATO, Sweden, and Turkey in a stroke."
Source - Turan.az
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