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Artillery Row

Why is the United States making concessions to Turkey?

The US should re-evaluate its interests in Europe

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan continues to drive a hard bargain when it comes to Sweden’s and Finland’s accession into NATO. Though the difficulties began with Turkey insisting the Nordic countries extradite some 130 “terrorists,” the controversy has boiled over in recent days, exacerbated by a protest in Stockholm in which the Quran was burned in front of the Turkish embassy.

One particular sticking point remains Sweden’s refusal to extradite individuals involved in a 2016 coup attempt to remove Erdogan from power and Kurds linked to the separatist Kurdish Workers’ Party — a group Turkey, the United States, and the European Union designate as a terrorist organisation. In an attempt to break the deadlock, the Biden Administration seems willing to make concessions to Turkey in the form of a $20 billion deal to deliver F-16 fighter jets contingent upon Ankara dropping its objections to the two Nordic countries NATO aspirations.

The bigger picture reveals a questionable U.S. strategy. Why is the United States making concessions to an unruly ally in Turkey in order to have the burden of defending two more weak European countries?

Sweden and Finland’s accession into NATO will not increase U.S. security. Instead, it will increase the risk of the United States getting dragged into a conflict with Russia, which despite its poor showing in achieving its strategic objectives in Ukraine, has still proven it can inflict massive damage on infrastructure and kill and maim tens of thousands of people, all while maintaining the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.

Sweden’s and Finland’s militaries are small, with only around 24,000 active personnel each. Both maintain small defence budgets, with Sweden spending — $8 billion and Finland — $6 billion in 2022. Finland is perhaps a more capable partner given its robust conscription and reserve systems, however, it also shares an 830-mile-long border with Russia. Finland’s possible entry into NATO would more than double the length of the shared border between NATO and Russia.

Or perhaps Turkish F-16’s will come to their aid?

Proponents of enlarging NATO further cite the geographic advantages Sweden and Finland bring to the table in defending the Baltics and projecting power in the Arctic. Even if true, those things do nothing to make Americans safer. The reality is if Russia launched an attack on Sweden or Finland, the United States would be the one doing the majority of the fighting. Or perhaps Turkish F-16’s will come to their aid?

NATO’s division of labor is broken. If Turkey eventually acquiesces, and Sweden and Finland join NATO, the United States should use the occasion to shift the burden of defending Europe to the Europeans themselves. The United States can no longer afford to serve as the primary security guarantor of wealthy and capable European states as it faces mounting domestic issues, including over $31 trillion in national debt, and a rising superpower competitor in China.

Shifting the burden of Europe’s defense will only come about if Washington takes tangible action in the form of an organized withdrawal of U.S. forces from Europe. Following Russia’s invasion, the Biden administration surged an additional 20,000 U.S. troops to Europe, which now number upwards of 100,000 stationed across the continent. The potential for even more American troops to be sent to Europe in order to defend two more wealthy countries is unacceptable. Meanwhile, Germany, the continent’s strongest economic power, maintains a derelict military and is projected to spend less than two percent of its GDP on defence despite insistent promises it would meet the mark.

The American people, who have underwritten Europe’s security for more than eighty years, deserve a more equitable relationship between the United States and wealthy and capable European allies. Unfortunately, President Biden, who came into power promising to pursue a foreign policy for the middle class, seems perfectly content to expose Americans to greater risk and infantilise Europe perpetually.

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