Before Finland and Sweden can join NATO, all 30 members must agree. But the initial joy about the planned addition to the family has waned. Because the Turkish President Erdogan is opposed. Out of sheer selfishness.

Why easy if complicated is another option? Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is blocking Finland and Sweden from joining NATO – allegedly because they support the Kurdish Workers’ Party PKK, which Ankara classifies as a terrorist organization. There is general agreement in Brussels that this assertion is only used as an excuse to be heavily rewarded for agreeing to it.

Erdogan blackmails his allies, he wants to be paid for his OC, probably in the form of arms deals with the United States. But strengthening the defense alliance in the midst of a bloody war on European soil is neither the moment for political power games nor for selfish haggling.

Erdogan: a master of self-portrayal

It is not that long ago that the Turkish head of government presented himself to the world as a benevolent mediator. When Russian and Ukrainian delegates sat down at the negotiating table in Istanbul at the end of March, it was a coup for Erdogan. Apart from glossy photos, not much came out of it. But it was precisely those that Erdogan was looking for. Their subtext: “Look who everyone is listening to in the end!” But his gamble on the planned addition to the NATO family proves once again: Erdogan is only ever concerned with one thing – himself.

Whether NATO, EU or UN: It’s always the same thing. If everything goes smoothly, the supposed partners pat each other, but preferably on their own shoulders. When things get serious, the much-vaunted unity is no longer felt. In short: an alliance is usually only good until it is put to the test. When it is no longer a matter of taking but of giving, the Orbans and Erdogans of this world sense their opportunity to cash in and be noticed. Because of course Erdogan’s stubbornness is not (exclusively) an infantile quid pro quo, but a power-political exclamation mark.

The rumblings from Ankara make it clear how dependent an alliance’s ability to act can be on the whims of a single ruler. The fact that all NATO member states have to unanimously approve applications for membership may well be a romantic idea, and from a historical perspective it is certainly justified. But as part of NATO’s open-door policy, Finland and Sweden will not be the last to ask for a seat at the big table. If rulers like Erdogan hold out their hands before every chair is moved, the alliance will inevitably fall into the role of petitioner. In this respect, dealing with Erdogan could set a precedent.

NATO expansion: a nightmare for Putin

In and of itself, it is not a problem if the accession of Finland and Sweden is delayed. After all, Great Britain, the USA and also Germany, among others, have given the aspirants security guarantees during the admission process should Russia start another war in a renewed surge of megalomania. Even before her application, the threat was limited – after all, both Finland and Sweden have been close NATO partners for many years.

Nevertheless, it is extremely important that the signing of the accession protocols and the subsequent ratification take place quickly. This is less about formalities and more about the image of strength that NATO expansion would paint. For Putin, it would be a bitter defeat in foreign policy and a nightmare in domestic policy. After all, preventing exactly that was one of his justifications for the invasion of Ukraine.

Erdogan knows all of this, of course. But with his me-first mentality, he doesn’t care. Erdogan is the type of person who helps friends move, but writes an invoice for it. You shouldn’t expect anything in return for friendship.