There have been those who bet on the meaning behind Türkiye’s attitude towards Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership, and the theory that “Türkiye will take back what it said.” These are the “natural investors” against everything President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan does. Making reference to the change in ideas, attitude, and policy on many matters in the past, they expected the same thing to happen again. They thought – or rather hoped – Türkiye would act as a U.S. orderly and give up on all its theories.
In fact, all the events in the past to which they are referring are the moves of a master politician, who gained matchless experience in international politics. They want to involve this master politician as a player, without looking at the result or the event as a whole. Politics, especially international politics, requires to be extremely pragmatic. Türkiye's current foreign policy is not based on an unprincipled pragmatism, but on an approach that always and absolutely observes values as well. Otherwise, we would be no different than those we criticize and consider the enemy. As the wise King Aliya Izetbegovic said, “You lose the war not when you are defeated by your enemy but when you become like them.”
It is possible to reread Türkiye's entire history based on this statement, but let us get back on the subject. Türkiye never renounced its interests while observing principles. In fact, it made serious gains thanks to its principled values policy. Of course, the objective of the one observing the principle cannot be a simple gain, but principled action is always rewarded by providence. It is not easy to include the gains from this in international policy analyses, but the results are obvious.
This is Erdoğan’s 20th year in leadership as prime minister and president, and during this process, world history is being made. There is no other leader more experienced than him at the NATO summit. Every country’s leader changed many times, but he is a leader who has been representing Türkiye for the last two decades. It is not only leaders who change, but also policies and sociologies. Yet, Erdoğan is expected in no respect.
Everything is as clear as day. Erdoğan did not say he does not accept the membership of these two countries under any condition, but that he would not accept it unless they abide by his conditions. Thus, his stance against NATO regarding the new members, and the result he achieved with this stance gained him perhaps one of the biggest victories in his leadership history. Regardless of whichever angle you look at it, this is a major step in Türkiye’s foreign policy, toward Türkiye presenting effectiveness in world politics.
Previously one of the alliance’s weakest and oppressed members, Türkiye found the opportunity for the first time as an actor to fully voice and use its membership rights to this extent.
It called on two European countries like Finland and Sweden to account for their operations against Türkiye. In fact, in doing this, it not only called them to account but also made other countries that are currently NATO members very openly confess what they did is wrong. Türkiye gained a great deal through this move, but the two most important points need to be underlined.
First, Türkiye did not only speak up against Finland and Sweden. In fact, everything it said to these two countries was also directed at all NATO members at the same time. Because though they were the ones directly supporting the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the People Protection Party (YPG) in Syria, and as a result, indirectly supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), they never had to take Türkiye seriously until now. Surely it’s not difficult to guess what they will do from now on. But even at this point, Türkiye brought up on the agenda the consistency, functions, and usefulness of the NATO alliance. The question of against whom and how NATO will protect its own members when necessary, even though itself is involved in all sorts of conspiracies and terrorist activities against its own members, is now NATO’s most important question. As a matter of fact, presently, NATO is not even able to protect Ukraine, which it encouraged and provoked into membership.
Second, Türkiye, as a country that is open to European countries’ review for years regarding its EU membership, and has been suffering as a whole nation as a result of this, found the chance on this occasion to review all European countries through these two European countries. Of course, Sweden and Finland are yet to be accepted into membership according to the deal to which Türkiye agrees. As a requirement of the membership procedures, Türkiye will be reviewing their operations, and whether they act in accordance with the promises and guarantees they made. In the event they fail to fulfill the conditions, Türkiye holds the right and authority to veto their membership. Regardless of what anybody says, this is a first in at least the last two centuries in terms of the history of relations.
Besides those who claim that Erdoğan spoke big again and had to step back, what more did those who claim Türkiye achieved nothing in Madrid want?