The most talked about topic these days is the disastrous NATO summit in Madrid on June 28. Media shows images of a clearly satisfied Jens Stoltenberg patting his ally, Erdoğan on the shoulder, giving him a grateful look. It’s certainly not just playing for the gallery, over the years as Secretary General of NATO he has built a strong relationship with Erdoğan. The former, somewhat young social-democrat rebel politician Stoltenberg built a solid political career in the Labor Party from 1990, until in 2014 he was appointed as the 13th Secretary General of NATO. His strong entrenchment in the social democratic welfare state makes it even more difficult to understand what motivation he had for making deals with Erdoğan.
Stoltenberg was Prime Minister when “Utøya” became the scene of the worst terrorist attack in Norwegian history when the Young Workers’ League (AUF) summer camp was attacked by far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik and that 69 young people were shot. death. At a memorial service that followed, Stoltenberg said, “Our response is more democracy, more openness and more humanity. But never naivety” (vox publica, July 24, 2011). But his notion of democracy has clearly faded in the effort to please Erdoğan and reach an eventual agreement. I don’t think Stoltenberg is naïve, he knows very well Erdoğan’s atrocities, his use of chemical weapons against the Kurdish people, ethnic cleansing, unlawful arrests and dozens of human rights violations. And that is the worst betrayal, the fact that he knows it so deeply and still chooses to drive a nail in the coffin of the Kurdish people.
Sweden and Finland have knelt down for possibly the worst dictator and war criminal of our time. How did we get here ? The war in Ukraine serves as an argument for the candidacy for membership, but do Finland and Sweden really fear a Russian invasion? In that case, I would think NATO membership gives a false sense of security. The alliance is no longer the defender of peace and a community of democratic values as it claims, on the contrary the Madrid agreement shows that NATO has become the instrument of an authoritarian regime which will dictate the politics of the Nordic countries and other Member States. It is not inconceivable that the Norwegian government will show solidarity with its Nordic neighbors and also lift the arms embargo against Turkey. In this way, Erdoğan’s dangerous tentacles will also be able to intervene in Norwegian foreign policy (Moxnes in Klassekampen, July 2, 2022).
In Sweden, Pierre Schori, former minister for development aid and a close collaborator of the late Olof Palme, declared that in Sweden, we speak “of before and after the Russian invasion of February 24, but currently there is there is also a before and after June 28” (Expressen, June 29, 2022). Schori and other former social democrats are protesting and claiming that Sweden has moved away from a tradition of freedom of alliance. However, Erdoğan used his veto and demanded that the two new NATO members lift the arms embargo on Turkey. Instead of balancing the forces, it will likely increase the militarization of Europe, as well as the adversarial relationship with Putin’s Russia.
Stoltenberg is known as a likeable and charismatic political leader and has a reputation for being a good mediator. But the process we witnessed and the result that emerged from it can just as well be characterized as manipulation rather than negotiation. Either way, this process, Sweden and Finland have sold their old values to a regime they never imagined collaborating with and at a price they will suffer for a long time. As part of the agreement, the two countries must cooperate with the formidable Turkish intelligence service MIT and at the same time renounce all assistance to the Kurdish YPG/J and PYD forces and refrain from any plans to help Rojava and northeast of Syria.
The longstanding solid solidarity with the Kurdish struggle seems to be a thing of the past and will be thrown overboard. The two countries have promised to extradite a long list of people qualified as terrorists in Turkey. Erdoğan’s state terrorism, however, is allowed to thrive. He is protected, while the Kurds are defined as the outlaws of our time.
Sweden has been an icon for human rights, however, in recent negotiations it has turned around and is cooperating with a regime known for violating the same rights. NATO orchestrated this, and it is outrageous that the Swedish and Finnish governments have been too weak to resist.
But the PKK, the Kurdish liberation movement, and imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan, who have repeatedly called for peaceful negotiations with Turkey and stood firm in the fight against ISIS, have experienced stormy weather. countless times throughout their history.
The Madrid agreement is a serious and dangerous setback, but it is unlikely to crush them; they have shown time and time again that they will pick themselves up and fight back with countless supporters around the world. They will continue to do so until someone finally understands common sense and clears a seat at the negotiating table. No matter how long it takes before this goal is within reach, we will continue to fight by peaceful means alongside the Kurds.
Kariane Westrheim is Professor of Educational Sciences at the University of Bergen, Norway. Since 2004, Westrheim has chaired the EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC) which, among other things, organizes the annual International Conference on EU Turkey and the Kurds at the European Parliament in Brussels.