Turkey opposes Finland and Sweden from joining NATO
Finland and Russia had a tense history. In 1939, Stalin invaded Finland, demanding more territory. Ultimately Finland was forced to sign the Moscow Peace Treaty, ceding some 9% of its territory. But a year later, in an alliance with the German Nazis, Finland attacked the Soviet troops. Peace was established after the Nazis were defeated in WW2.
Finland has stayed out of alliances like NATO because it always wanted to maintain cordial relations with its neighbor, Russia. However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine resulted in a shift in perception and overwhelming support for NATO membership.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, apparently to stop NATO’s further expansion in the east. However, in less than three months, the same invasion has prompted two neighboring countries, Finland and Sweden, to consider joining NATO. Sweden, which has avoided military alliances for the past 200 years, stated that joining NATO would increase its security and stability in the region. The membership guarantees a military response and protection by NATO countries if any member of the organization comes under attack.
If these two countries now formally apply for membership, it would be a strategic setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose most important foreign policy focus has been on weakening NATO. Russia threatened to take military measures if the membership went through and warned Finland of the consequences of this move.
It is still not clear whether these countries will be inducted into NATO any time soon. Within NATO, any decision on increasing NATO requires approval by all 30 members. But European Nations and the USA have welcomed the announcement. Until the membership is formally accepted, the US stated it is prepared to provide any necessary defense support.
On the other hand, Turkey opposes Finland and Sweden from joining NATO. Turkey states that Sweden and Finland support Kurdish militant groups, whom it considers a terrorist organization.
Who are Kurds?
The Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in Turkey. Though they belong to different religions, the majority are Sunni Muslims. Turkey fears Kurdish empowerment because of their demand to create Kurdistan State. For generations, Kurds have faced harsh treatment at the hands of Turkish authorities. Right now, they are present in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Armenia.
When ISIS jihadis were growing strong in Syria, they also posed a threat to Kurds residing there. Kurds were defending their own lands and remained a strong force to counter them. There were even provided with arms by the West to fight the jihadis. But as history is full of strange ironies, once ISIS was gone, that support from the West was also gone. But because of their heroism against ISIS, the Kurds gained unprecedented global popularity.
Right now, the bigger question is whether another round of expansion of NATO would help bring peace and stability in Europe, particularly at a time when the world is facing First World War-type security competition? It would escalate the current crisis between nuclear-armed Russia and NATO to dangerous levels. Russia should immediately stop the war, and all the stakeholders should focus on finding a long-term solution to the crisis.