By TIPPINSIGHTS EDITORIAL BOARD, TIPP Insights
The thirty members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are meeting in Madrid amid the shifting geopolitical landscape of Europe. The unusual circumstances created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine have also paved the way for the alliance’s expansion on a scale unseen in decades.
But it would have been a different story if the talks between the Nordic countries and Turkey had not resulted in a breakthrough. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it known as soon as Sweden and Finland expressed interest in joining NATO that Turkey would oppose their entry into the alliance. His words raised much concern in diplomatic circles, as NATO can only admit a member with unanimous approval.
Ankara pointed out two main reasons for objecting to the entry of Finland and Sweden. Oslo has permitted Kurdish dissidents to reside and operate in Sweden. Turkey has deemed the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) a terrorist organization and expressed its wish to extradite them to the country. Aside from this, President Erdogan brought up the fact that the Nordic states agree with the arms embargo put on Turkey in 2019 because of its military actions in Syria.
Both Finland and Sweden agreed to Turkey’s demands to join the alliance. Oslo and Helsinki had to pledge to “prevent the activities of all terrorist organizations, their extensions, affiliates, and inspired groups, as well as to investigate and interdict any financing and recruitment activities of such organizations.”
The two countries have agreed to look into Turkey’s deportation or extradition requests concerning terror suspects “expeditiously and thoroughly, taking into account information, evidence, and intelligence provided by Turkey.”
At a news conference, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who led the negotiations between the three nations, said, “As NATO Allies, Finland and Sweden commit to fully support Turkey against threats to its national security. This includes further amending their domestic legislation. Cracking down on PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) activities. And entering into an agreement with Turkey on extradition.”
The two traditionally neutral Nordic states have been growing closer to NATO. President Putin’s unilateral invasion of Kyiv has tipped the balance, with each European nation devising strategies to strengthen its security.
The trilateral memorandum paves the way for the expansion of NATO, a move that would considerably bolster the alliance’s might. For one, Finland shares about 800 miles of land border with Russia. Positioned along NATO’s north-eastern flank and into the Arctic, the geographical location of the soon-to-be-inducted members is a strategic win.
Besides, Finland and Sweden possess some of the most modern militaries in Europe. The Nordic nations will bring one million troops and considerable artillery power, not to mention jets and submarines, to NATO.
Oslo and Helsinki have made it clear that their entry into the alliance is a step forward in enhancing their “security” and not a means to punish Russia. Moscow is doubtful about buying that reasoning.
Even as NATO discusses the expansion of its multi-national forces, the NATO Response Force (NRF), from 40,000 to 300,000,and upgrading its defense plans due to Russian aggression, it is also paying close heed to another aggressive power in Asia. In another first for NATO, the new Strategic Concept being devised at the summit will feature China. The member states will talk about how China’s military is getting stronger and how that threatens NATO’s security, interests, and values.
China, too must be watching the summit closely. China sees NATO’s ‘indiscriminate expansion to the East’ as a provocation that forced President Putin to invade Ukraine. Beijing is also wary of the alliances being formed in the Asia-Pacific. Given that the leaders of Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand are attending the summit, the top brass in Beijing will be watching the proceedings.
Russian invasion has changed Europe. Military neutrality is being sidelined to ensure collective security. With Beijing’s hegemonic plans causing disquiet on the other side of the world, all eyes are on the NATO summit to see how democratic nations forge ahead to uphold peace.
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