U.S. officials seek clarity on Turkey’s view of NATO expansion : NPR

by Msnbctv news staff

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives for a welcoming ceremony for his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Might 16, 2022.

Burhan Ozbilici/AP

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Burhan Ozbilici/AP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives for a welcoming ceremony for his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Might 16, 2022.

Burhan Ozbilici/AP

WASHINGTON — With Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan taking an more and more powerful line towards the NATO membership bids of Finland and Sweden regardless of far much less strident statements from a few of his prime aides, U.S. officers are attempting to find out how severe the usually mercurial chief is and what it’d take to get him to again down.

Amid the contradictory alerts from Ankara over the anticipated purposes, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet his Turkish counterpart on Wednesday in New York in a brand new effort to make clear Ankara’s place after earlier makes an attempt seem to have solely clouded the state of affairs.

Underscoring the sensitivity of the fragile diplomacy required to take care of a doubtlessly recalcitrant ally, the Biden administration appears to have taken to ignoring Erdogan saying he can’t enable the 2 nations to affix NATO attributable to their alleged assist for teams Turkey sees as safety threats. As an alternative, the administration is specializing in remarks made in closed-door conferences by lower-ranking Turkish officers.

“It isn’t for us to talk for the Turkish authorities,” State Division spokesman Ned Worth mentioned repeatedly on Tuesday in response to a number of questions on what the U.S. understands Turkey’s place to be and whether or not Turkey had demanded something from the US in return for agreeing to Finland’s and Sweden’s memberships.

At stake for the US and its NATO companions is a chance to reply to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by strengthening and increasing the alliance — the very reverse of what President Vladimir Putin hoped to realize in beginning the struggle.

However Erdogan’s strategies that he might derail Sweden’s and Finland’s membership hopes additionally spotlight a possible weak point that Putin has tried to take advantage of previously — the unwieldy nature of the consensus-run alliance the place a single member can block actions supported by the opposite 29.

Initially seen in Washington and different NATO capitals as an simply resolved minor distraction to the method of enlarging the alliance within the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Erdogan’s verbal volleys towards Finland and Sweden are attracting extra concern as the 2 Nordic nations transfer ever nearer to submitting formal purposes with the hope of becoming a member of as rapidly as attainable.

Even when they’re overcome, objections from Turkey, which is the one one among NATO’s 30 members to have raised reservations concerning the enlargement to this point, might delay Finland’s and Sweden’s accession to the alliance for months, notably if different nations comply with go well with in looking for concessions for his or her votes.

Erdogan, who has grown more and more authoritarian through the years, is thought to be an unpredictable chief and there have been events when his phrases have been at clear odds with what Turkish diplomats or different senior officers in his authorities have mentioned.

“I do not exclude a attainable disconnect between Turkish diplomats and Erdogan. Prior to now there have been examples of such disconnect,” mentioned Barcin Yinan, a journalist and commentator on Turkish international coverage. She mentioned there was a “disconnect” between Erdogan and the Overseas Ministry final 12 months, when the Turkish chief threatened to expel 10 Western diplomats, together with the U.S. ambassador, whom he accused of meddling in Turkey’s judiciary.

For example, NATO Secretary Normal Jens Stoltenberg instructed reporters in Berlin on Sunday after discussions with Turkish officers that “Turkey has made it clear that their intention is to not block membership.” In the meantime, Blinken and different international ministers, together with Germany’s prime diplomat, Annalena Baerbock, expressed absolute confidence that every one NATO members, together with Turkey, would welcome the 2 newcomers.

But on Monday, Erdogan stunned many by doubling down on his criticism of Finland and Sweden, accusing them of supporting Kurdish militants and others whom Turkey considers to be terrorists and of imposing restrictions on navy gross sales to Turkey.

“Neither nation has an open, clear stance towards terrorist organizations,” Erdogan mentioned. “We can’t say ‘sure’ to those that impose sanctions on Turkey, on becoming a member of NATO, which is a safety group.”

Requested concerning the disparity, Worth, the State Division spokesman, would say solely that Blinken, after assembly with Turkish Overseas Minister Mevlut Cavuoglu and others over the weekend, “got here away with the identical sense of confidence that there was sturdy consensus for admitting Finland and Sweden into the alliance in the event that they select to affix, and we’re assured we’ll be capable of protect that consensus.”

Gonul Tol, director of the Turkey program on the Center East Institute, mentioned that whereas Erdogan usually talks a tricky line, he tends to come back round ultimately and do the “rational” factor.

“Erdogan is unpredictable. However on the identical time, he is a really pragmatic actor,” she mentioned. Tol mentioned Erdogan likes to barter and pushes for “maximalist calls for” in the course of the negotiations. “He finally ends up settling for a lot lower than that,” she mentioned.

She famous that Erdogan’s grievances with Western international locations over the Kurds usually are not new and that strains between Turkey and the US over navy provides are long-standing.

Having been dropped from the F-35 superior fighter jet improvement program after shopping for a Russian air protection system, Turkey has been urgent the U.S. to promote it new F-16 fighters or on the very least refurbish its present fleet. Discussions on each points are happening in Washington this week and a few officers consider that whereas they’re unrelated to the NATO enlargement query, resolutions to both might assist persuade Erdogan to drop his objections.

Tol agreed and mentioned: “That is occurring at a time when he is making an attempt to fix ties with Washington, when Turkey is concerned in negotiations to persuade Congress to promote F-16s to Turkey. It is a time when Erdogan is making an attempt to burnish his picture as a priceless ally. And this can be a time when the invasion of Ukraine has given him a chance to achieve out to Western capitals. So towards that background it might be a really dramatic step if Turkey actually vetoes the appliance of Finland and Sweden.”

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