Erdoğan to back down in NATO spat under immense pressure - Henri Barkey
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will drop his objections to Finland and Sweden joining NATO once an enormous amount of pressure is put on him, said Henri J. Barkey, an adjunct senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“It is possible that the Europeans and the Americans would find some facesaving concessions that may not mean much but will satisfy him,” said Barkey, who is also the Cohen Professor of International Relations at Lehigh University.
Erdoğan, who has lost significant political support at home ahead of elections scheduled for next June, is in defensive mode and therefore will try to make the most of everything, Barkey said in an interview with journalist Nervana Mahmoud for Ahval’s Turkish Trends podcast series on Wednesday.
“The thing about the Turks is that they always ask for the maximalist conditions so they make it sound like they want heaven on earth, and hope that eventually they would get a little bit and they would turn around and call it a big victory,” he said.
Turkey blocked the start of NATO membership talks with Finland and Sweden on Wednesday citing their alleged failure to combat terrorism, saying the two Nordic countries provide shelter to members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group fighting for Kurdish autonomy on Turkish soil, and the religious Gülen Movement, which Turkey blames for a coup attempt in 2016.
Turkish officials say that Sweden and Finland have failed to agree to extradite dozens of the so-called terrorists over the past five years. The two countries should also drop an arms embargo on Turkey, Erdoğan says.
Sweden is a country of rule of law and there is absolutely no way that it would extradite a person to a country where anyone can be found guilty by a court on completely invented accusations, Barkey said.
Barkey pointed to an Istanbul court’s decision last month to jail philanthropist Osman Kavala for life for seeking to overthrow the government by financing the Gezi Park protests of 2013. The case was based completely on fictituous accusations, he said.
“So there’s no way on earth that Sweden will give up anybody,” Barkey said.
Erdoğan is in a very difficult situation at home and it is certainly not clear that his party is going to win the polls next year and he may even be defeated himself, Barkey said.
So “He’s using everything to show how tough he is against the West,” he said.
“I think at the end of the day the Turkish public will not vote for Erdoğan or against him on this issue. It’s mostly the economy. Economic conditions are what matters,” Barkey said.