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When President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey threatened this month to block NATO membership for Finland and Sweden, Western officials were exasperated — but not shocked.

Within an alliance that operates by consensus, the Turkish strongman has come to be seen as something of a stickup artist. In 2009, he blocked the appointment of a new NATO chief from Denmark, complaining that the country was too tolerant of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and too sympathetic to “Kurdish terrorists” based in Turkey. It took hours of cajoling by Western leaders, and a face-to-face promise from then-President Barack Obama that NATO would appoint a Turk to a leadership position, to satisfy Erdogan.

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