The United States said Tuesday that no concessions were given to Turkey to secure its green light for Swedish and Finnish entry into NATO at the start of the alliance’s summit in Madrid.
“There was no request from the Turkish side for the Americans to make a particular concession,” a senior administration official told reporters.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official called Turkey’s decision a “powerful shot in the arm” for NATO unity.
Turkey is an important NATO member in a strategically sensitive location, but it has had often tense relations with its European partners and Washington, which is the alliance’s main military force.
A plan to equip Turkey with state-of-the-art US F-35 stealth fighters fell through after Turkey bought Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft missile system, something Washington saw as potentially threatening the security of the F-35 programme.
Turkey next set out to buy new F-16 fighter jets, as well as upgrades for its existing fleet of the same planes. However, that deal is also on hold and there has been speculation that Turkey was holding up the NATO accession bids of Finland and Sweden to try and leverage US concessions.
“There’s nothing the United States offered in direct connection with this,” the US official said. “Nothing about Turkish requests to the United States was part of this agreement. This is an agreement strictly among the three countries — Turkey, Finland, Sweden. The United States is not a part of it.”
Although the official insisted that Biden did not want the United States to act as a “broker” or to be “in the middle” of the deal between Turkey and the northern European applicants, he said Biden deserves credit for lengthy behind-the-scenes diplomacy.
According to the official, it was Biden who, soon after Russian invaded Ukraine in February, “reached out” to Finland and Sweden “to begin discussions” about them joining the transatlantic alliance.
Once Turkey made clear its opposition — claiming that the two countries harboured anti-Turkey Kurdish militants and also demanding that they lift bans on selling weapons to Turkey — the Biden administration began trying to smooth over the differences, the official said.
“We have been painstakingly working to try and help close the gaps between the Turks, the Finns and the Swedes, all the while trying — certainly in public — to have a lower key approach to this, so that it didn’t become about the US or about particular demands on us,” the official said.
“That’s how we ended up to where we are today,” the official said.
Biden and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan talked early Tuesday and will meet in person on Wednesday and the US leader is “keen” to make progress on their relationship, the official said.