Finland and Sweden, for which Turkey has put forward conditions for NATO membership, continue to participate in NATO’s joint exercises as partner countries. The year’s second Ramstein Alloy exercise, organized by NATO three times every year since 2008, was held this month in Estonian airspace, with a Turkish Air Force E-7T, an early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, acting as the airborne command and control post during the exercise.
The Turkish Ministry of Defense announced on Twitter that “Our airborne early warning and control aircraft, which participated in the ‘Ramstein Alloy Exercise’ held in Baltic airspace between June 6 and 10, 2022 with the participation of NATO and Baltic countries, performed the command and control task during the exercise,” without mentioning the names of the countries participating in the exercise. It was previously announced that the Turkish Air Force had transferred aircraft to the NATO base in Geilenkirchen, Germany, for Baltic Air Policing duties.
Meanwhile, the NATO BALTOPS 22 exercise, in which Sweden and Finland also participated, started on June 5. Forty-five ships and 76 warplanes from 16 countries, 14 of which are NATO members including Turkey, are participating in the exercise, which will last until June 17
Finland also sent 200 soldiers to the exercise hosted by Sweden, which is celebrating the 500th anniversary of its navy.
According to reports in the Turkish media, NATO is showing its determination for Sweden and Finland to join NATO. Some argue that a bold message is being sent that Turkey’s opposition to these two countries will not change NATO’s plans.
Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist, whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan allegedly asked Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson to fire, visited the US warship USS Kearsarge with Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Noting that Sweden and Finland will participate in NATO exercises in the future, Hultqvist said: “We can call what has happened recently the new cold war or a new iron curtain. We can also consider this as the conflict between authoritarian states and democratic Europe. NATO countries that gathered in Stockholm signal the importance of the security of our region.”
Gen. Milley stated that Sweden’s NATO membership is of military and strategic importance, adding that although the Swedish Land Forces are not at the desired level according to NATO standards, it has a high-class air force, modern technical equipment and a strong navy.
Another important development is the Ramstein Dust-II 2022 exercise that will be held in Turkey. A convoy of 30 military trucks with personnel and equipment from NATO’s Deployable Air Command and Control Centre already deployed from its home in Poggio Renatico, Italy, to Konya Air Base in Turkey on June 5. The exercise will also integrate the tactical live flying phase of the Turkish-led exercise Anatolian Eagle 22 between June 20 and 28 to enhance the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence (IAMD) posture and improve interoperability.
Sweden and Finland are active members of the Partnership for Peace (PfP), a NATO program aimed at creating trust between the member states and other non-member states in Europe, including post-Soviet ones.
Turkey has declared that it will veto the membership of Sweden and Finland if they do not fulfill its conditions. The unanimous approval of all members is required for any country to join NATO.
Turkey demands that Sweden and Finland take concrete steps against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its alleged affiliates in northern Syria.
Turkey also demands the extradition of opponents of the Erdoğan government in these two countries. According to news in the Turkish media, Turkey is demanding from the US that it again be included in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, that F-16 jets be sold to Turkey and that sanctions imposed due to Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system be lifted.