The Irish Times view on Turkey and Nato enlargement: diplomatic blackmail

Recep Erdogan’s intervention could tangle Nato up in knots for months, a political gift for Vladimir Putin

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not averse to brinkmanship and strong-arming friends and allies to get his way. Diplomatic blackmail, some call it. The Turkish president’s threat to block Finnish and Swedish accession to Nato is very much a case in point, even if that means antagonising all 29 other member states.

And it’s not as if he objects in principle to their membership, simply that he has found in the unanimity rule a useful tool to extract unrelated concessions from the two countries.

Political asylum, the rule of law, and free speech are fundamental democratic norms that can not be bargained away

As a precondition of their Nato membership Erdogan has demanded that both Finland and Sweden end their supposed support for the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), which Turkey regards as a terrorist organisation, and that they lift their ban on arms exports imposed in October 2019 after the Turkish incursion in northern Syria. He also accuses Stockholm of harbouring exiled members of the Gülen movement, an Islamic sect led by Fethullah Gülen that Ankara blames for a violent coup attempt that rocked Turkey in 2016.

Since that time Erdogan has been demanding the extradition of the latter and 84 supporters from the US. US administrations, even that of his friend Donald Trump, have stalled – extradition requires both hard evidence and confidence in the extraditing state in the rule of law of the recipient state, on both of which scores Turkey fails abysmally. Nor would any EU state extradite Kurdish refugees to Ankara, for the same reasons. Political asylum, the rule of law, and free speech are fundamental democratic norms that can not be bargained away.

Erdogan's intervention could tangle Nato up in knots for months, a political gift for Vladimir Putin in delaying the stated desire of Finland and Sweden to become the organisation's northern flank.

Whatever his intentions, however, Erdogan, who resents the sense that Turkey remains an outsider to the west and is seen as deliberately ambivalent towards Russia, is playing a dangerous and potentially counterproductive game.