Turkey announced its intention to give Sweden a free hand to join NATO. This would push Russia even further into a corner.
LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández
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Leer en español: ¿OTAN acorrala más a Rusia?
When Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, announced his "special operation" to invade Ukraine to "save it from the Nazis" and defend Russia from NATO expansion, he did not expect the current context. Today, his lightning dive into Ukraine has been going on for over a year and does not seem to be resolved soon. The economic bloodletting continues to try to keep the front in the neighboring country and within its borders.
In addition to this scenario, there is the possible new entry of Sweden into the NATO group. Although the Nordic country does not have a land border with Russia, it does have maritime borders with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad in the Baltic Sea. This represents a new threat to Russian intentions and leaves its future expansionist interests in the balance.
But this support from Turkey comes with a condition. On the one hand, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to lift his veto on Sweden's entry into the Western military alliance (all members must approve new members). In this way, Erdogan demonstrates his goodwill, but only by first having the power to negotiate.
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Recently, Sweden changed its position against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a political group associated with extremists seeking Kurdish independence (eastern Turkey). In addition, they also lifted an arms embargo on Ankara, and the Nordic country approved several extraditions of PKK members to Turkey.
In addition, Turkey is asking to unfreeze talks with the European Union to join the group. Since 2016, after a failed coup attempt and a violent crackdown, Brussels and Ankara have drifted apart. Now they are on track again to fulfill Turkey's dream since 1987 when it applied to join the European Union.
The Nordics in NATO
With the eventual accession of Sweden, NATO would have all the Nordic countries. This means Finland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden. All these countries complete the membership in an alliance that limits Russia's exit through the Baltic Sea.
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Finland and Sweden (members 30 and 31) have joined the group. This reinforced and will reinforce the military presence in northern Europe, which is rich in oil and gas. Additionally, they further limit the Russian fleet's presence in the Baltic Sea: with St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad. This would leave Russia dependent on its ports and fleets in the Black Sea, in the Crimean peninsula, which today is not secured due to the war in Ukraine.
It also poses a new global map in the Arctic, where Russia has always maintained superiority. Today, the Nordic countries' union with Canada creates a larger container.
Now with Sweden, NATO has the strategic island of Gortand. A territory in the middle of the Baltic Sea is known as an "unsinkable aircraft carrier." It exercises air control within the area, which is vital for Russian trade, and supplies the second most important city (St. Petersburg).
Although Sweden is not a significant player in military matters and is far from a power, its membership articulates a better understanding among its members and seals defensive gaps.
What Does Russia Have to Do?
Regardless of whether Russia succeeds in defeating Ukraine or not, Moscow's future outlook is different. Not only because of the cost of lives and resources invested in a conflict that seems to be one of attrition but also because the global map is already different. First of all, because of the increase of NATO members and the lack of support and allies. A clear example is Turkey. Erdogan and Putin found each other an ally in several contexts. Both had to face sanctions or claims from Europe for alleged detriment to their democracies, persecution of minorities, and their conservative policies.
Russia finds Europe increasingly hostile. Only its friend, Lukashenko in Belarus, seems loyal to it. Against this background, the territory of Central Asia remains, where the former socialist republics (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, etc.) maintain cordial relations with Moscow. In addition, it can strengthen its alliances and agreements with China. The biggest problem, however, is that both superpowers have their population centers at different extremes: Russia in Europe and China in its easternmost region.