Will Turkey Actually Exit NATO or be Kicked Out First? – This week, Turkey postponed what was to be a critical meeting with Sweden and Finland that was meant to resolve issues over the Nordic nations’ bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
On Monday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan also warned that Sweden should not expect Turkey to back its membership bid following a protest in Stockholm in which a copy of the Quran was burned.
Both Sweden and Finland – historically neutral nations – sought membership in the international alliance following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine last February, but NATO member Turkey still needs to approve their bids.
“Sweden should not expect support from us for NATO,” Erdogan told reporters after the protest, which had been approved by Swedish officials. However, the burning of the sacred Islamic book was not approved. Earlier this month Kurdish protesters had also hung the Turkish leader in effigy.
“It is clear that those who caused such a disgrace in front of our country’s embassy can no longer expect any benevolence from us regarding their application,” Erdogan added.
Finland has begun to float a solo entry if Turkey won’t budge on Sweden’s membership.
Ankara is the final hurdle that Stockholm and Helsinki need to clear for NATO membership, but questions are now being asked whether it is possible the two Scandinavian nations could soon be part of the alliance while Turkey may not be. Some Turkish officials had suggested it could leave the alliance, which it officially joined on February 18, 1952. Protocol regarding its membership was signed in October 1951.
Turkey and regional rival Greece were the first additions to the alliance.
Ankara canceled Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson’s upcoming visit to Turkey, and this week, Turkey’s deputy leader of the Patriotic Party (Vatan Partisi) Ethem Sancak suggested that developments may prompt his country to take even more dramatic steps.
“NATO is making us do so with its provocations. They have been seeking to contrast us to our neighbor Turkey. Turkey will leave NATO in five to six months,” Sancak told the Aydinlik newspaper. “They [NATO] have been trying to get us caught in the Middle East crossfire. Finally, you can see campaigns against the Quran in Sweden and the Netherlands.”
The minister also claimed that upwards of 80 percent of the Turkish population is against being in the military alliance – and suggested Turkey’s Patriotic party has launched a campaign to exit NATO entirely, and to shut down all military bases hosting U.S. troops.
Tensions between Washington and Ankara have been simmering for years but increased after Turkey was ejected from the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program after it went ahead with an acquisition of the Russian-made S-400 “Triumf” air defense system. NATO officials have argued the two platforms are not compatible and Turkey operating both could compromise the security of the fifth-generation jet fighter.
More recently, talks for Turkey to acquire a number of advanced F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft, along with modernization kits for its current fleet of fighter planes, have stalled. U.S. lawmakers in Congress have been wary of Turkey’s hostile rhetoric against Athens, while Ankara’s hold up of supporting Swedish and Finnish NATO membership isn’t going to help resolve matters.
No nation has completely exited NATO, nor has any been expelled. Turkey could be the first – it is now a matter of whether it exits the alliance or is formally kicked out. But it increasingly appears that Turkey’s days as a member are numbered.
Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.