3 President Erdogan's Geopolitical Strategy Games at the NATO Summit


3 President Erdogan's Geopolitical Strategy

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made waves at the NATO summit in Lithuania, surprising observers by making a U-turn and endorsing Sweden's long-awaited bid to join the military bloc.

During a press conference on Wednesday evening after the summit in the capital Vilnius, Erdogan touched on several issues for Turkey, including the ratification of Sweden's NATO bid, the F-16 defense jet deal with the United States, and the balancing act he continues to play between Russia and Ukraine.

Turkey forged a new path in Europe by also resuming talks with Greece, with both countries announcing on the same day, after over a year of tensions between historical foes. In fact, Erdogan's NATO game was played in anticipation of his upcoming visit to Gulf countries next week. He seeks to garner foreign investment to boost Turkey's strained economy following his re-election in May.

The Turkish leader stated that he would proceed with the ratification of Sweden's NATO bid in Parliament when it reconvenes in October, with Stockholm expected to provide a roadmap of the steps to be taken before the ratification is submitted.

Ankara's approval came as Sweden pledged support to renew Turkey's customs agreement with the European Union and its desire for visa-free travel across the EU for its citizens. Erdogan also hoped that Stockholm would take steps against the banned Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist group.

"When it is reopened, I believe our parliament speaker will prioritize this among international agreements. The main approval comes from the parliament, and then it will come to me for approval," Erdogan said, as reported by Al Jazeera.

In addition, the leader will hold discussions with nationalist ally parliamentarians from the Justice and Development Party (AK) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), who expressed disappointment with the news of endorsing Sweden's bid.

A few hours after Ankara announced it would allow Stockholm into the bloc, the US stated it would proceed with the delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, possibly in exchange for Ankara's green light.

At Wednesday's press conference, Erdogan said he was "more hopeful than ever" about the jet purchase, while US President Joe Biden also expressed confidence that the deal would go through. Turkey has long sought to acquire fighter jets as part of its efforts to modernize its existing fleet.

Erdogan also commented on the release of a former Ukrainian garrison commander in Mariupol, facilitated by Turkey, stating that Russia's initial negative reaction has changed.

"Initially, there were some statements from Russia but afterward, when they learned about some circumstances, the situation took a positive turn," Erdogan said at the press conference.

Russia reacted with ridicule to Turkey's role in mediating the release of the five commanders, claiming that it violated the terms of last year's engineered prisoner exchange agreement.

Erdogan also stated at the conference that Turkey could act as a mediator between Moscow and Kyiv to end the invasion of Ukraine that began in February last year. 

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin currently has no plans to speak with the Ankara leader, according to Russia's TASS news agency, citing a Kremlin spokesperson. On Saturday, commenting on other countries' bids to join the defense pact, Erdogan said Ukraine "deserved" to be a NATO member.

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