News Update


What is Erdogan, the leader of Turkey, up to now?

After holding up Sweden’s bid to join NATO for months on the grounds that Stockholm harbors Kurdish militants, Mr. Erdogan quickly changes the subject to Turkey’s long-standing bid to join the European Union (EU).

He seems to be saying that if Turkey can’t join the EU, then Sweden can’t join Nato either.

From the point of view of EU leaders, this is not a good idea. Dana Spinant, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, said, “You can’t connect the two things.”

Turkey first tried to join the EU in 1987, but President Erdogan’s efforts to make Turkey more authoritarian stopped the process.

In November 2016, when President Erdogan started cracking down on people he thought were involved in the failed coup that year, the European Parliament decided to stop talks.

Relations had already gotten worse before the 2015 migration crisis, when EU members accused Mr. Erdogan of trying to use international pressure to get his way.

But since Turkey has been a part of NATO since 1952, it has a lot of power. All NATO members have to agree on a new member before they can join.

What is NATO? What will be talked about at the meeting this week?
President Biden called Mr. Erdogan on Sunday to try one last time to get him to stop being against Sweden joining the EU.

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is setting up a meeting between the Turkish president and the Swedish prime minister the day before the summit in Vilnius.

Most officials think that the Turkish leader is using his power to get the alliance to give in, possibly by getting the US to sell F-16 jets.

Greece, which is also a part of NATO and has been Turkey’s rival for a long time, wants to be sure that Ankara won’t use jets from the U.S. to break its sovereignty.

But since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Mr. Erdogan has also played a unique role as a NATO leader who has power in Moscow.

He helped set up the Black Sea Grain Initiative last year, which makes it possible for Ukraine to ship farm goods from its ports.

Even though Russia has often said it will pull out of the deal, Turkey has helped keep it alive.

But Turkey has also made the Kremlin angry by giving Ukraine powerful drones.

Russian officials were also very angry over the weekend when, out of the blue, Turkey let five former leaders of the Ukrainian garrison at Mariupol fly back to Kyiv after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit.

Russia expected the men to stay in Turkey until the end of the war as part of a deal to trade prisoners last year.

It’s hard to tell what Mr. Erdogan’s moves before the meeting mean. During his 20 years in power, both his friends and his enemies have come to expect him to change his mind quickly.

But by putting off Sweden’s joining and bringing up Turkey’s plans to join the EU so late in the game, Mr. Erdogan will not have won over his fellow leaders in Vilnius.

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