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Leader: NATO’s thorny road in Sweden

Leader: NATO’s thorny road in Sweden

It took a long time before Sweden left Non-Alignment. But after the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Social Democrats and Swedish Democrats quickly changed their minds and joined the bourgeois parties’ demands for NATO membership. An order was placed with Finland, where the turnaround was faster.

In theory, it should be quick and easy. NATO is an organization of democratic nations whose main goal is to confront Russia. Now Russia has invaded Ukraine, which is a peaceful neighboring country. So it should be in NATO’s interest to quickly allow two democracies into Russia’s neighborhood.

Consensus is required to accept new members. Türkiye and Hungary, already members, have developed in an authoritarian direction. It is more difficult to act against countries that are already members than to stir up trouble when new countries want to join.

Türkiye is a country where journalists are imprisoned, and the media is very much like that Politicians controlled by the state and the opposition are running. Relations with Russia are so good that Turkey has bought the Russian SS-300 air defense system, which has led to restrictions on US sales of other military equipment.

Turkish President Erdogan used Sweden’s membership application to demand clearer action against terrorists and demanded the extradition of Turkish citizens living in Sweden. At the same time, it is believed that what Turkey really wants is the opportunity to purchase F-16 fighter jets from the United States.

Sweden and Finland struck an ambiguous agreement that meant Türkiye did not block membership applications. After a while, Turkey ratified Finland’s request, but Sweden’s opposition remained. Erdogan’s regime also criticized Sweden’s freedom of expression legislation after the burning of the Holy Quran.

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He turned the world upside down. Sweden wants to become a member of a defense organization of democratic countries. The United States, the leading power in NATO, as recently as President Joe Biden met with Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, clearly supported Sweden’s membership. But in order to let Sweden in, authoritarian Turkey is demanding a change to Swedish legislation and deportation rules. Hungary cheers in silence. A group of rogue states, with repressive legislation against religious minorities, campaigns against the right to burn books as a political sign.

The Swedish government has been complaining rather than clearly defending Sweden’s laws on freedom of expression and association. The limits of human rights are debated in all democracies. But this debate should be conducted without pressure from countries that do not, in practice, protect democracy. The impression here is that the government, in its eagerness to join NATO, is yielding to the criticisms of authoritarian states.

After this week’s meetings between the foreign ministers of Finland, Sweden and Turkey, President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Christerson will meet on Monday, July 10 before the NATO meeting in Vilnius. We hope that Sweden will finally reach the finish line with NATO’s request, and Hungary will not argue alone.

However, this should not be at the expense of concessions to Erdogan’s Turkey. Then it is better to wait a little longer. In the end, Türkiye must back down. Even without formal membership, other NATO countries have every reason to defend Sweden militarily.