Has Sweden joined NATO?

Nazim Sheikh
Nazim Sheikh

Global Courant

The author teaches Turkish history at Sabancı University in Istanbul. He has master’s and doctorate degrees. from the same university


“But don’t let appearances fool you. There is always only one reality.” (one)

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I predict that in the coming weeks and months, Europeans and North Americans interested in international politics will experience the following dialogues:

Person 1: “…so when Sweden joins NATO, Europe will have a unified deterrent against Putin.”

Person 2: “Wait, I thought Sweden was in NATO?”

Person 1: “Not exactly. The Turkish parliament still needs to approve their participation.”

Person 2: “But I thought Sweden was accepted into NATO during the Vilnius conference?”

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Person 1: “Not exactly. The press and most NATO officials tried to portray it that way, but in fact Sweden was not accepted into NATO. In fact, nothing much has changed.”

Now that it’s been almost two weeks since the media raved about NATO’s Vilnius conference, anyone in the Western press has asked, “Did I dream all last week?”

Ordinary observers, overwhelmed by the joyful and bright smiles, the flashy news of the 24/7 Western press, and the exaggerated but vague language, can be forgiven for thinking that Sweden is now a full-fledged NATO member. Even the New York Times openly used the phrase “Sweden has joined NATO” on its homepage on Wednesday, July 12.(2)

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But if you take a moment to enter the member list on NATO’s official website, you will notice that Sweden is not named there. (3)

Vilnius media show

The full-blown Western media offensive of the Vilnius NATO conference seemed like a bizarre attempt by the governments of North America and Europe and the international media to create a “failover” atmosphere around Sweden’s NATO candidacy.

This campaign took place as follows. In the days before the conference, Turkish officials held a series of high-level meetings with American, European and NATO officials.

The same period was also characterized by numerous Western officials and articles in the press stating that NATO, Washington and Brussels were waiting for Sweden’s NATO membership to be concluded as soon as possible, and that Turkey was the disgruntled person who destroyed the party. (4)

The diplomatic traffic was so frenetic that when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tied Turkey’s EU membership process to Sweden’s NATO membership – which was a bombshell on international news wires – the first thing that came to my mind was that some sort of agreement had been made in the previous days.

This was late Sunday and early Monday, 9-10 July; President Erdoğan went to Vilnius after his press statements on Monday morning.

Beginning that same day, amid dizzying diplomacy, various American and European officials announced that Turkey had “given the green light” to Sweden’s NATO membership. (5) This led to a series of official statements and breaking news using rhetoric implying Sweden’s admission to NATO.

While the world press acted with this interpretation for about 36 hours, the local Turkish press kept its calm and focused on the ongoing diplomacy. During those 36 hours, an interesting gap emerged between the mirage presented by the international press and the reality presented by the Turkish press.

However, on the evening of July 12, when President Erdogan gave his closing speech, the gap began to close. In his statements, President Erdoğan made it clear that nothing has changed and that Sweden has responsibilities that must be fulfilled before the Parliament accepts Stockholm’s membership. (6) Actually, that was the case last year.

What just happened?

Given the uninterrupted news cycle, the Vilnius conference now seems like distant history, and the press narrative on Sweden’s NATO membership has largely reverted to the previous status quo. However, at last week’s NATO conference, another interesting Western press narrative with different interpretations emerged: “Turkey is turning its direction to the West.”

This theme emerged on the afternoon of July 10, following President Erdogan’s statements that morning regarding Turkey’s EU membership. (7) It was later expanded by other authors, sometimes in an almost plagiaristic fashion. (8) However, there is not even a week left before President Erdogan starts touring the Gulf countries.

Such blatant misinterpretations of short-term political developments in Turkey are unfortunately perfectly normal for Western media commentators trying to interpret the Turkish scene for their readers. Something as profound as the reorientation of a country’s political course can only be defined in the medium to long term and through multiple events and decisions.

For these reasons, the most pressing question that arises regarding the behavior of the international media during the Vilnius NATO conference is why exactly is all this “noise and anger” deemed necessary.

Journalists, of course, write according to what they find interesting and what their editors want or allow; Comments from both journalists and editors are influenced by a multitude of factors, including bias and political affiliation.

Perhaps NATO officials felt the need to create a positive atmosphere that all NATO governments and citizens could appreciate, at an otherwise extremely difficult time.

In an age of war, internal discord, and rising international tensions, the Potemkin front of unity and harmony will be a key element in this effort to provide some positive public relations mood to the rest of the world.

Perhaps some NATO officials or politicians were delusional enough to think that they could pressure Turkish officials to make concessions. Or was the real target the US Congress?

Whatever the case, journalists who are willingly or unknowingly caught in this farce should not forget the advice the taxi driver gave to Aomame in the opening pages of 1Q84.

The fact is that Sweden needs to take decisive action against PKK and FETO terrorist organizations and other terrorist groups in Sweden to end their ability to operate on Swedish soil. And only the Turkish Grand National Assembly will decide whether Sweden fulfills these conditions or not.

(1) Haruki Murakami. 1Q84, Chapter 1. Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel, translators.

(2) Later the same day, the NYT tacitly admitted the mistake by publishing the following article: Erdogan Says Yes to Sweden’s NATO Goal, But Not So Quickly – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

(3) https://www.nato.int/nato-welcome/index.html

(4) For example: NATO’s Welcome to Sweden Party is Back on Ice – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

(5) European leaders welcome Turkey’s green light for Sweden’s NATO membership (aa.com.tr); Turkey Leads Sweden’s Entry into NATO on Summit Eve – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

(6) Sweden’s accession to NATO At the discretion of the Turkish parliament: President Erdoğan (aa.com.tr)

(7) Why does Erdogan attribute Sweden’s NATO membership to Turkey’s EU membership? – Middle East Eye

(8) For example: Erdogan’s view of Sweden signals improved relations with the United States – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

* The views expressed in this article belong to the author and may not reflect Anadolu’s editorial policy.

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Has Sweden joined NATO?

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