March 20, 2023 | Flash Brief

Turkey Approves Finland’s NATO Membership

March 20, 2023 | Flash Brief

Turkey Approves Finland’s NATO Membership

Latest Developments

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that he now supports Finland’s application for NATO membership. By contrast, Ankara, which has stalled the transatlantic alliance’s Nordic expansion since the Madrid Summit in June 2022, will continue to block Swedish membership until Turkey’s May 14 elections, if not longer.

Expert Analysis

“The conclusion of Turkey’s elections will be decisive for NATO’s enlargement. If Erdogan is reelected, there is a decent — but not certain — possibility that he will approve Swedish membership. However, in the event that Kemal Kilicdaroglu becomes president, it is likely that Ankara will ratify Sweden’s membership without further delay, as Ankara will be keen to rekindle closer ties with its transatlantic partners and distance itself from Russia.” Sinan Ciddi, FDD Non-Resident Senior Fellow on Turkey

Erdogan’s Goals

Ankara seeks to achieve two objectives with respect to NATO. First, by greenlighting Finland’s NATO membership now, he aims to show the West that Ankara supports its security goals, particularly in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine. Second, by holding out on Sweden’s application, Erdogan intends to show Turkish voters that he is a strong and uncompromising leader, particularly when it comes to holding European states accountable for aiding and abetting the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), the pro-Kurdish separatist organization. Erdogan’s delay in approving Sweden’s NATO membership is thus a domestic political calculation.

Since last summer, Ankara has demanded Stockholm’s extradition of more than 100 PKK individuals whom it regards as terrorists as a precondition for Turkey’s approval of Sweden’s NATO membership. Sweden is unlikely to meet this request, as Turkish officials have not provided any substantive evidence corroborating Ankara’s accusations. On the other hand, Swedish officials have complied with certain Turkish demands. For example, in September 2022, Stockholm lifted an arms embargo it imposed on Turkey in 2019.

After the Election

If Erdogan wins reelection, there is a possibility that he will persist in denying Sweden NATO membership. Erdogan may demand further concessions, particularly from the United States regarding military procurement: He is keen to obtain new F-16 fighter jets from Washington, which the U.S. Congress is currently blocking. Turkey’s continued spurning of Sweden would generate considerable NATO pressure upon Erdogan, but it would also demonstrate that Turkey has considerable leverage over the organization.

Related Analysis

Will Erdogan Embrace The West?” by Sinan Ciddi

Erdogan Seizes on Quran Burning as New Pretext to Block Sweden’s NATO Accession,” FDD Flash Brief


International Organizations Military and Political Power Turkey U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy