Ankara, Turkey – The Turkish parliament has said “YES” to Sweden’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), bolstering Stockholm’s journey to become the 32nd member of the alliance. This pivotal decision, following Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s change of direction on the issue, signifies a significant shift in Sweden’s defense policy and highlights Ankara’s strategic objectives, including the potential unblocking of the F-16 aircraft sale from the USA, which it hopes to realize.
Turkish President Erdogan is expected to sign it into law in the coming days.
Sweden’s NATO accession initiative, which began almost two years ago in response to Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, is not a straightforward matter, as Turkey and Hungary each hindered the accession for their own reasons. This move makes Hungary the last NATO member not to have given its consent. Ankara’s approval comes after intense discussions focused primarily on Turkey’s concerns about Sweden’s stance towards groups Turkey labels as terrorist, such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
In seeking NATO membership, Sweden has shown a steady commitment to meeting the alliance’s criteria and has made efforts to fulfill Turkey’s demands by tightening its anti-terrorism laws and lifting restrictions on arms exports to Turkey. The approval of the Turkish parliament represents a significant development in NATO’s expansion, potentially impacting the broader geopolitical dynamics, including Turkey’s defense relations with the United States.
Now, it remains to be seen whether the USA will satisfy Turkey’s request for the supply of advanced F-16V fighters and the upgrade of existing F-16 aircraft to the Block 70/72 level, which essentially constituted the quid pro quo for approving Sweden’s NATO membership.