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Turkey Wants a Bribe for Allowing Sweden and Finland to Join NATO

F-16 training mission
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Austin Daniel, an F-16 crew chief from the New Jersey Air National Guard's 177th Fighter Wing, looks over his assigned aircraft prior to a training mission at Atlantic City Air National Guard Base, N.J., Dec. 17, 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht/Released)

Don’t Bribe Turkey to Allow Sweden and Finland to Join NATO, Play Hardball – Against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s increasingly erratic behavior, Sweden and Finland seek NATO membership. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Putin’s sanctions-evasion lifeline, has threatened to block their application.

NATO should dump Turkey. Whether due to Turkey’s dictatorship, its sponsorship of terrorist groups like Hamas and Syrian Al Qaeda affiliates, its betrayal of American intelligence, its double-dealing with the Taliban in Afghanistan or a host of other reasons, Turkey simply does not belong.

To expel Turkey from NATO, though, is easier said than done for two reasons: First, there is no formal mechanism to expel members from the alliance. In the past, France and Greece temporarily left the integrated military campaign, but they did so voluntarily, and, regardless, they remained in the alliance. Second, because consensus governs NATO decision-making, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can block any move to push Turkey out. In effect, Turkey has become a Trojan Horse inside NATO.

While most NATO members see the organization as a means of mutual defense, Erdogan views Turkey’s membership as an opportunity to exploit. He signals that Turkey’s vote is for sale to the highest bidder. If he is to accept Sweden and Finland in NATO, then he expects a reward. That might be Congressional approval of the Biden administration’s sale of new F-16s and enhancement packages to Turkey, or it could be a Scandinavian crackdown on Kurdish Diaspora activism and finance within their own countries. Simultaneously, Erdogan is likely sending intermediaries to Putin to see what the Russians are willing to offer him to keep Sweden and Finland out.

To bargain with Turkey, however, legitimizes Erdogan’s tactics. Just as Iran responds to White House concessions on the nuclear front by raising its demands, so too might the mercurial dictator in Ankara. At the very least, appeasing Erdogan will set a dangerous precedent among other NATO states whose leaders now or in the future might seek to sell their votes.

NATO members have been aware of the problem for some time. While the United States criticized French President Emmanuel Macron’s November 2018 call for a European army as a danger to NATO and a play to the anti-Americanism which President Donald Trump fanned amongst many West European elites, defense officials from countries further east privately told me problems with Ankara rather than Washington motivated their interest in the project. A European army would be ineffective, however, without its North Atlantic component—the United States and Canada—nor the naval, nuclear, and satellite capabilities the United States especially brings. This is even truer today after Brexit severed United Kingdom membership in the European Union.

Perhaps a better approach would be to coerce rather than appease Turkey. Stop Turkish Airlines flights to NATO members until Turkey acquiesces. As Erdogan approaches 2023 elections, the economy remains his Achilles’ heel. Even minor tariffs imposed to pressure Turkey to release Pastor Andrew Brunson, an American cynically held hostage on Erdogan’s orders caused Turkey’s unstable currency to collapse further. One U.S. dollar is equal to 15 Turkish lira. Turks should expect 25 unless Erdogan changes his mind. Finally, end the U.S. presence in Incirlik. Greece, Romania, and perhaps even Cyprus can offer alternatives.

NATO, too, can isolate Turkey within the organization. Classified U.S. documents often list the countries whose officials can read the documents: It is time to firewall all U.S. and other NATO member intelligence and memos from Turkey. NATO should essentially take a lesson from New York City teachers’ unions. If the bad actor can’t be fired, simply place them in a rubber room where they can read a newspaper all day until boredom gets the best of them.

Both the State Department and European foreign ministries’ knee-jerk reaction is always to negotiate. Diplomacy is more than just talk, however. Sometimes it involves using other tools to make other leaders an offer they can’t refuse.

Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Dr. Michael Rubin is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Dr. Rubin is the author, co-author, and co-editor of several books exploring diplomacy, Iranian history, Arab culture, Kurdish studies, and Shi’ite politics, including “Seven Pillars: What Really Causes Instability in the Middle East?” (AEI Press, 2019); “Kurdistan Rising” (AEI Press, 2016); “Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes” (Encounter Books, 2014); and “Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos” (Palgrave, 2005).

Written By

Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Dr. Michael Rubin is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Dr. Rubin is the author, coauthor, and coeditor of several books exploring diplomacy, Iranian history, Arab culture, Kurdish studies, and Shi’ite politics, including “Seven Pillars: What Really Causes Instability in the Middle East?” (AEI Press, 2019); “Kurdistan Rising” (AEI Press, 2016); “Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes” (Encounter Books, 2014); and “Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos” (Palgrave, 2005).

46 Comments

46 Comments

  1. They Call Me Mister T

    May 17, 2022 at 8:25 am

    Splendid thinking, Mr. Rubin. Antagonize a strategic ally controlling access to the Black Sea, and do as much damage to the lira as to the ruble. What could go wrong?

    • dražen

      May 18, 2022 at 5:20 am

      this funny man thinks that this is a perfect moment for america to bully turkey? ha ha ha

    • George Karayannis

      May 18, 2022 at 8:02 am

      Turkey has already damaged the Alliance’s interests, in the greater East Med Area. If this is allowed to go on, the damage shall grow exponentially. This comes from a long track record and is indisputable.

    • George

      May 19, 2022 at 9:43 am

      Mister T = Mister Turkey

  2. Eric

    May 17, 2022 at 9:29 am

    I was thinking the same thing. How can this backfire?

  3. Him

    May 17, 2022 at 9:40 am

    Turkey today is where Russia was about 15 years ago. It is conflicting to interact with a ruler who had rigged their democratic system to become effectively a dictator. But the West thought it was beneficial to transact with the dictator for mutual benefit. So we tolerated Putin’s autocracy – but it came back to bite us.

    The same has to happen with Erdogan – it will come back to bite some day. There is sowing and there must be reaping.

    Erdogan is a brutal totalitarian strongman – in the mould of Putin, Xi and Korean Fat Boy – who just manipulates the democratic system. I have Turkish friends, and know how the fear as a result of living under such autocracy which is a democracy. in name only.

  4. Error403

    May 17, 2022 at 9:43 am

    Why must NATO keep increasing number of members, Mr Rubin ?

    To prepare for world war 3 ?

    NATO is imposing on the world its far right-winger policies whether the world likes it or not.Right-wingism, or neo-fascism (business suit &tie version) or plain yankee-angloist-natoist capitalism.

    Thus you have high crime rates in places like Australia, US, and UK along with increasingly runaway gang violence. Not just only in failed states like mexico, Guatemala,Haiti and hundred others.

    Meanwhile in less violent places, humans face inflation, food shortages, infections and loss of incomes due to rich nations dictating daily course of world events.

    Mr Rubin, the answer to the growing twin menace of NATO’s increasing membership and NATO’s control of world is NOT TO HEAVE BLAME on Ankara but to have non-NATO nations bind together and share rs-28 technology among themselves.

    Ankara is just a by-product of N-A-T-O.Blaming Ankara is like pointing finger at oneself ! Has never worked !!!

    • Tom

      May 17, 2022 at 10:39 am

      Apparently, you have learned nothing from Putin’s aggression and illegal invasion of a number of countries including Ukraine. On the other hand, you sound like a toned down version of Alex.

      • Grog

        May 17, 2022 at 2:42 pm

        Did you miss Victoria Nuland’s 2014 overthrow of the elected government in Ukraine? Or the slaughter of over 14,000 civilians in the Donbas by the Ukrainian military over the next 8 years?

        Putin is a counterpuncher, and he is merely responding to US State Dept. skullduggery and aggression.

        • Tom

          May 17, 2022 at 3:18 pm

          Putin is a lying little terrorist that has no regard for the sovereignty of smaller nations. Stealing Crimea by a thug is not recognized by the world and will eventually be lost back to Ukraine. Putin will be dead by cancer or poison soon enough.

          BTW comrade, you and your fellow Russian trolls that lack any credibility on this site. People will believe your version of history as soon as chickens learn to pee.

          • Alex

            May 17, 2022 at 6:05 pm

            You are just mold. Remember this. You will be wiped out with the same boot as your ancestors.

          • Tom

            May 17, 2022 at 7:49 pm

            Boris, Even your own people are criticizing the impotence of Putin and his broken army. The world hates Russia and the isolation will be palatable, but life is good in advanced western countries. You are a third world country with your future circling the drain. Nobody is fighting to get into Russia, yet they are finding ways to leave the dump and develop a real future. Besides your propaganda can’t even convince your own population how do expect to convince the free world?

            Ukraine is kicking your butt and is hitting targets in Russia. Humiliation is something you’ll have to get used to. Putin doesn’t respect or honor the thousands left on the battlefield by refusing to take them home.

            Putin and Russia are like a turd on your shoe. How are those fires doing deep in Russia? LOL

          • drazen

            May 18, 2022 at 5:03 am

            Crimea was russian land for centuries, and Hruscev give it to Ukraine. BTW America helped albanians stole Kosovo from Serbia? So in what way is that different from Cromea? you think the whole world is dumb to see your disgusting double standards?

          • pero

            May 18, 2022 at 5:08 am

            The time of US and Israhell bullying the rest of the world has came to an end. get used to it.

        • Anders

          May 17, 2022 at 9:40 pm

          Hi Grog,

          Do you really want to talk about the Yanukovych government?

          Putin had a sweetheart deal with Yanukovych to siphon off 15% of the gas transiting Ukraine through a Swiss joint venture called RusUkrEnergo, one part of which was owned by Dmytro Firtash (later arrested in Austria and let out on bail paid by one of Putin’s Oligarch friends – the largest ibail n history, I believe). This was just one of several schemes involving Putin aimed at corrupting Ukrainian society.

          Also, the largest media owner at the time was the head of FSB. But don’t worry, he sold off his shares (to his wife).

          If you want to discuss Ukraine and Russian subversive activities prior to the Orange Revolution, we can certainly do so. You may want to stick with the European Song Contest instead – yes, the Ukrainian song probably didn’t deserve to win.

          Anders

        • L'amateur d'aéroplanes

          May 18, 2022 at 12:48 am

          Grog, huge lie! Only propagandists in Moscow dare to write that the 14,000 victims are all ”separatist” civilians.

          I remind you that the 14,000 victims of the Russian intervention in 2014 to divide Ukraine, there are
          3,350 civilians – many of whom did not want to be Russians – 4,100 members of Ukrainian forces and 5,650 members of pro-Russian armed groups.

          And remember what was the Russian reaction when a region of the Caucasus wanted to leave its bosom? A third of the population exterminated by the Russian army in Chechnya. And you DARE TO CRITICIZE THE ATTEMPT of Ukraine to preserve its territorial integrity?

    • Patrick M Kilbane sr

      May 17, 2022 at 8:40 pm

      Finland & Sweden don’t have a right to have NATO protect them from Russian agression and invasion. Russia has invaded Finland or Sweden before

      • Brotha Zoot

        May 18, 2022 at 4:28 pm

        Finland left frozen corpses of russian invaders on their frontiers the last time russia tried to invade. I dare moscow to try and invade the country that has 900 artillery pieces directed at its borders with russia. They will find their march on Finland to be far worse then what its failed invasion of Ukraine looks like. On top of that if Finland is attacked you will see a far more robust response from the international community.

        As far as Ankara is concerned I say we let em flap in the wind for a while under some rough tariffs until they wanna play nice with the rest of the gang. I feel like Turkey is fast outweighing its usefulness with ignorant moves like this. The bases we used to monitor the Soviets are no longer needed. We can project our power from any number of neighboring allies. We have capability to use carriers to conduct air missions from the mediterranean lessening the usefulness of air bases in Turkey.

        Turkey has long been the red headed bastard child of NATO. Its time we taught the petulant brat some manners.

    • Him

      May 18, 2022 at 2:59 am

      @Error403, there can be TWO different reasons for increase – and only a foolish or deceptive person pretends there is no difference.

      Example, when sheep are frightened, they run together to form a group. Yes, the group number increases – but it is for self-protection, not for attack.

      When countries like Finland, Sweden and Ukraine run to get into NATO, it is for protection, not for attacking Russia.

      There would be no need for protection, it Russia did not believe the lie that everyone wants to attack Russia. Then Russia would be a peaceful country just like everyone else.

      BUT right now, Russia is not like every other country. Russia acts like a beast because it falsely believes everyone wants to attack Russia. This false idea makes Russia act aggressively to others.

      Thus, it is false propaganda to say that NATO’s increase in numbers is to attack Russia.

      The fact is, the increase in NATO is because smaller countries are wanting protection from aggressive Russia.

      Silly how Russian people, because of their Communist lying-culture, think this is not true.

    • Mario DeLosa

      May 18, 2022 at 8:35 am

      Why must NATO keep increasing number of members? Because Russia has proven beyond all doubt that it cannot be trusted. How? Invading Ukraine because Putin needed to legitimatize is corrupt regime was the straw that broke the camel’s back buttercup! As far as Erdogan goes, he is a revanchist Ottoman that cannot be trusted either and he is playing games with the rest of NATO. Erdogan’s Turkey should be kept in a box until it decides that it wants to play nice and removes Erdogan from power; any more questions Mr. Kremlin troll?

    • Tito

      May 19, 2022 at 7:01 am

      You are 100% wrong. Funny how everyone hates America, but wants to go there to live or visit. The biggest threat to peace comes from china and it’s little side kick former superpower Russia. Communism does not work, nor will it ever work. Same with socialism. And if china had their way, the entire planet will bow down to their evil corrupt regime. They cannot be trusted.

      • Conny

        June 12, 2022 at 11:17 am

        You are aware Sweden and Finland have been “Socialist” too quite some degree for some time now. Its the very backbone of the nordic countries Ever wonder why the nordic countries all though so small can be so prosperous and successfull? Its spelled socialist reforms. Now dont get we wrong we are capitalist countries, but its the blend of socialism and capitalism that the nordic countries have perfected that make them so great. Ofc ppl like Trump and the republican party will try and claim “things are happening in sweden last night, like…. really bad things. Thats because he fears Americans might realise socialist reforms are not all bad. So its important for the Republicans to try and fool you thinking any country remotely socialist is imploding. Which is utter propaganda.

  5. Fluffy Dog

    May 17, 2022 at 9:49 am

    using economic pressure, especially before the elections, will work just fine. The lira has been sliding for the last 5 years and in the last year it was dropping like a rock (https://tradingeconomics.com/turkey/currency). Turkey depends on the West, but the West does not depend on Turkey. There are other pressure points as well, like military cooperation. I am curious if Erdogan still thinks that purchase of S-400s was a good move.

    • Emmett

      May 21, 2022 at 5:09 am

      Yes millions of refugees are not in Turkey ? And they don’t want to go to Germany? Keep dreaming. West ist pretty dependent to mr erdogan. And that’s bad for Turkish people.

    • Stop with the hate

      May 21, 2022 at 5:44 am

      You know nothing about the inner mechanics of Turkish politics. For instance did you know that support from conservatives for Erdogan increased back in the day with bishop Brunson crisis? Do you have any idea how the current government can manipulate their supporters, to convince them that the entire world is against them, attacking the economy and trying to get them to their knees. And how that makes the entire west hostile and rotten in their supporters’ minds. Russia is a big enough problem for the world and trust me you don’t want a rogue Turkey in the region (Not to mention losing Nato’s second largest army in the process). People are already suffering enough from the ridiculuous financial decisions Erdogan takes, and slowly but surely even his die hard supporters are beginning to see the truth, the corruption. Putting any sanctions would just reverse this process. He will use it as an excuse to collapsing economy, and once more collect further support from people who cant afford even their basic needs. And trust me, people will buy it!

      So the best is to let him speak if he will, and leave Turkey alone until the 2023 elections. You will see the focus will shift from Middle East to Europe again once a more democratic government restores the republic back to its roots.
      The worst thing Nato or EU can do now is to put sanctions against an already fragile Turkish economy and expect any good to come.

  6. Daniel Davis

    May 17, 2022 at 10:43 am

    So we’re going to basically kick Turkey out of NATO?

    How the hell are we supposed to take on a coalition of China, Russia, Turkey, Iran, and North Korea because that’s where this thing is heading.

    Democrats can’t stand the military and will never fund a defense budget big enough to take on such a coalition. America is on the path toward oblivion, and its past time for someone to stop the absurd nature of our foreign policy. We simply cannot take on the entire world by ourselves. The Europeans are useless, and when the shooting starts, we’ll be by ourselves

    • They Call Me Mister T

      May 17, 2022 at 4:36 pm

      Are you the same Daniel Davis who writes here? If not, you might want a different name. If you are, I can’t stop laughing. Good show- and don’t forget Saudi Arabia. I previously thought it was impossible to get Iran, Turkey, and the Saudis on the same side for anything, but the Biden cabal just might manage it.

    • Fluffy Dog

      May 17, 2022 at 5:18 pm

      As stated in the article, no country has been kicked out of NATO before, and it’s not likely that Turkey will be kicked out. But it can be pressured.
      If you are worried about the US being capable of taking on your list of countries, I would worry more about Chinese espionage, Dems pissing away American industrial capabilities, and Russian influence on the Americans. I see on various forums conservatives supporting Putin simply because Dems support Ukraine and Putin being “pro-traditional values.”

  7. Bertram

    May 17, 2022 at 12:32 pm

    Turkey is a country in decline.

    We would be far better off with Sweden and Finland as members in NATO.
    Turkey does not have to get kicked out over this, they can leave if they want to, or they can stay…but they can be politely told behind closed doors that they are not getting a veto on this and can walk if they want to.

    They won’t.

  8. Stefan Stackhouse

    May 17, 2022 at 2:24 pm

    Some problems can be solved. Some problems can’t be solved, and you just have to live with them. Turkey is an unsolvable problem with which we will just have to live.

  9. Alex

    May 17, 2022 at 6:04 pm

    I would like to thank Beth. Thank you for your objectivity in resolving the issue. I hope you continue to be independent. Yours faithfully.

  10. Bill

    May 17, 2022 at 8:30 pm

    Thank you to 1945 for this article, the point of which, I believe, is Turkey, not necessarily NATO expansion.

    Turkey is a long-time supporter of terrorist groups such as ISIS.

    Even the U.S. and Europe outright admit this though they do little about it.

    In effect, therefore, the U.S. and Europe are complicit in terrorism.

    In actuality, Turkey is a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’ in every sense of that term. Besides that, Turkey is nothing but a spoiled brat.

    Please read this fine article (Turkey: A State Sponsor of Terrorism?):

    https://www.neweurope.eu/article/turkey-a-state-sponsor-of-terrorism/

    Here’s another one (The New Kings of Jihadist Terrorism: Azerbaijan and Turkey):

    https://countercurrents.org/2020/10/the-new-kings-of-jihadist-terrorism-azerbaijan-and-turkey/

  11. pero

    May 18, 2022 at 5:13 am

    You can try as hard as you want, but for most people beside brainwashed americans HAMAS is a resistance group fighting against israeli occupation and oppression. And they dont murder journalists as israelis do.

  12. aldol11

    May 18, 2022 at 5:56 am

    Turkey should have never been admitted to Nato or EU

  13. mawendt

    May 18, 2022 at 10:27 am

    First, I have worked with Turks and have Turk friends, and they’ve always been great people. Their government, however… but mabes they can say the same about the US government…

    NATO and EU bent over backwards to take Turkey as a counterbalance to Soviet Russia back in the day. As technology has changed, I’m thinking Turkey doesn’t have the strategic weight to make up for it’s anti-freedom, rouge actions re: terrorism support, intelligence abuse, buying Russian military equipment and the like.

    There is a point of ‘not worth it’. Turkey is moving away from the West in so many ways, and uses Russian interactions as a lever to get what it wants from NATO and EU. It’s not really moving towards the Russians, either – it’s moving more Islamic fundamentalist. So mabes we should run away while we can.

    Turkey isn’t as valuable as it used to be for the West. And if they side with Russia, let the Russians deal with that grief. Good riddance to Turkey.

  14. Jacksonian Libertarian

    May 18, 2022 at 11:42 am

    A unanimous vote to remove Turkey, and add Finland and Sweden should do the trick.

  15. Alex

    May 18, 2022 at 11:45 am

    Turkey has blocked the start of negotiations on the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO.

    In addition, Turkey insists that any new candidates for NATO membership recognize its concern for Kurdish militias both inside Turkey and beyond its borders in Syria and Iraq.

    • Bertram

      May 18, 2022 at 2:44 pm

      What? No comment on the Bandara Nazi’s or the running dogs of western imperialism?

      • Abdirahman Ibrahim Bouh

        May 19, 2022 at 9:33 am

        The brilliant BOY like Rubin is the one of feeding human minds on earth at the momens. Please keep that wise the rest of your life.

  16. Doug F

    May 20, 2022 at 11:23 pm

    I agree 100% with everything you say.
    Well said.

  17. Simurg

    May 21, 2022 at 4:45 am

    Now you call yourself an analyst, huh? As western nations, we need to leave acting naive. We added 15 members to Alliance, and many have very little Army. Some have one aircraft in all their inventory. Nato is a collective defence treaty. It means to protect each other. And Allies have to protect each other. Adding Finland and Sweden “at the last minute” creates a massive risk to NATO. Nato doubles its borders with Russia. This will increase pressure and miscalculation risks. Additionally, it seems you have no idea (or you are aware but well paid) what Turkey brings to NATO and how it contributes to the Alliance. It is one of the most contributing nations to the Alliance Missions and command structure. It has more military power than maybe the weakest 15 Nations in NATO. I do not even talk about its strategic location. Perhaps we should think about supporting YPG and normalising this relationship. We promised them countless times that this relationship is “Tactical and temporary”.

    • Thor

      May 21, 2022 at 4:54 pm

      That was wise

    • Average Joe B.

      May 21, 2022 at 10:58 pm

      Very well said!

      The article owner has very weak and short term opinions without a broader vision.

      Economically and politically stronger Turkey is always in favor of EU & US and let us do not forget that US & EU are the core reason of Turkey’s current status by supporting islamic government in 2002 and afterwards.

  18. Emmett brown

    May 21, 2022 at 4:47 am

    Mr. Rubin this declarations all the Erdoğan needs to win next election. You are a real support for him. Keep going on and support idiocracy. Turkish people are suffering und him and you don’t care. How pity.

  19. Emmett brown

    May 21, 2022 at 5:17 am

    Mr Rubin this proves that you support erdogan and he is a puppet for you. West is dependent to erdogan because he is the watchdog for millions of refugees that wants to go to Germany. They don’t want any other European country. Just Germany. You guarantee with this kind of declaration the win of your puppet. Shame on you.

  20. Letitgo

    May 21, 2022 at 4:32 pm

    I am really amused by the guy who advised the US for long and let the US run away from Middle East is still talking and trying to give some advices. Dude just shut up. May be you should just accept that you know nothing about Middle East. If you had a slight knowledge about Turkey that pressuring lira would increase popularity of Erdogan and he would win the next election. With your nonsense advices the west would prove his rhetoric that the west hate Turks. If I were you, I would just stop talking and let it be. How many times you would fail to understand that you know nothing.

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