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NATO Summit In Madrid: You Pay Erdoğan's Price

NATO is now being expanded after all. This is good news for the alliance, very good news for the Turkish president - and bad news for Vladimir Putin.

Sometimes it's the small, tedious gestures and conversations that add up to bring about the greatest progress. Quite a few of these were undertaken before the NATO summit in Madrid, which begins on Wednesday. First, the White House reported a phone call between US President Joe Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Then Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, followed up with the announcement that the two would meet in Madrid for bilateral talks. At a joint meeting with Erdoğan, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, even before all delegations from the 30 member countries had even arrived, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tried to make some progress towards a compromise. And what a distance they covered.

Late on Tuesday evening there was sudden excitement at the conference venue in Madrid. A joint appearance by the four after their meeting promised to be bigger than a mere update in the annoying dispute between NATO, Turkey and the two countries that would like to join. Indeed, the three states signed a memorandum stating that Turkey will support Finland and Sweden's invitation to the summit. The NATO Secretary General celebrated this success when he appeared alone in front of the press: "I am pleased to be able to tell you that we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO," said Stoltenberg. The countries should already be officially invited on Wednesday. This agreement shows again that it is possible to overcome differences within the alliance if you just get together.

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The military alliance was under pressure to push through the planned northern expansion with Finland and Sweden. In mid-May, the two countries had made their declarations of accession public , everything seemed coordinated and uncomplicated. Until the Turkish President decided to use his right of veto. 

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Erdoğan claims that Sweden and Finland support the banned Kurdish Workers' Party PKK and the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG. Among other things, he called for the countries to tighten their anti-terrorist laws and export weapons to Turkey. Finland and Sweden have responded to these concerns, Stoltenberg said, pointing to better cooperation between the countries in relation to the defense industry. In addition, Stoltenberg said, as NATO allies, the states would give Turkey unlimited support in the fight against threats to its national security. "These include further changes to domestic legislation, a crackdown on PKK activities and reaching an extradition deal with Turkey."

Signal to Russia

Clearing up the differences is not as easy as the Secretary General wanted to make it out to be. For NATO, the admission of Sweden and Finland is a clear signal to Russia's President Vladimir Putin, who should be on the main stage at the Madrid summit don't fail. Although Erdoğan did not get this either, due to the agreement reached on the eve of the summit and without the presence of US President Joe Biden.

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In the end, it is Sweden and Finland that make decisive concessions to Erdoğan. The Turkish president has used his veto to distract attention from his domestic problems: a weak economy, high inflation and more and more Turks becoming impoverished. Nothing that goes well in an election campaign. And that is where Erdoğan is, because there must be elections in the country by 2023 at the latest. An internationally strong president with a clear PKK message is doing better.

A good start to the two-day summit for Erdoğan. Despite the concessions, the agreement is also good news for NATO, Finland and Sweden. "Our open-door policy is a historic success," said Stoltenberg. The United States and Great Britain also agreed to the agreement. The accession of the two Nordic countries will strengthen NATO and make Finland and Sweden more secure. And then the Secretary General said something that characterizes this entire summit week and has already dominated the G7 summit in Elmau. "We are experiencing the greatest security policy crisis in decades." NATO must find an answer to this, part of the summit will be to adopt a new strategic concept.

The two militarily strong nations of Finland and Sweden had maintained their neutrality in terms of defense policy for many years. Being able to integrate them into NATO is a response to the changed geopolitical situation. Stoltenberg was asked what his message to Putin was. "Every nation has the right to choose its own path," he said. It's a clear message, one that the West has been trying to convey ever since Putin launched his war of annihilation in Europe. And it is exactly what the Russian President did not want to achieve. The West is coming together. Politically, morally, militarily. In this respect, this evening is full of bad news, above all for Putin.

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