Turkey will greenlight Finland's NATO bid


At the end of the NATO summit in Brussels last July, both Finland and Sweden were invited to begin the process of joining the block.

During a ceremony in Brussels, NATO ambassadors today signed the accession protocols that will move Finland and Sweden a step closer to joining the alliance.

The accession protocols now move to the alliance’s 30 member nations for national ratification according to the procedures of the various nations. In the United States, this means the Senate will have to approve the addition of those countries to the Washington Treaty of 1949.

For decades, Sweden and Finland were content to work with NATO, but not become members of the defensive alliance. But Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine in February shifted the ground in Europe, and those nations – both historically neutral – petitioned to join NATO. At last week’s NATO summit in Madrid, allied leaders agreed to invite Finland and Sweden to join the alliance.

…He noted that years of training and exercising together has increased the interoperability of Finnish and Swedish forces with NATO, and the nations share the same values as the other members of the alliance.

“I commend all allies for moving so quickly in accepting Finland and Sweden’s applications for membership, and I want to thank Turkey, Finland and Sweden for their constructive approach,” the secretary general said. “The trilateral agreement they signed at the Madrid summit made today possible.”


Moving the protocols to the member nations proved to be the rub, and there was no mistake that Turkey was mentioned in conjunction with the two applicant countries. Between the three of them, they had some historical rough edges to smooth out before Turkey was going to agree to the two Nordic countries joining.

…For weeks, Sweden and Finland’s applications were held up by Turkey. Any Nato enlargement must be approved by all 30 members.

The Turkish government claimed the Nordic nations were supporting what it calls terrorist organisations, including Kurdish separatists and the Gulen movement, which Turkey blames for an attempted coup in 2016.

…In exchange for its support, Turkey said it wanted Sweden and Finland to stop providing political, financial and “arms support” to the groups.

It also wanted them to resume selling weapons to Turkey and hand over individuals with alleged terror links.

After hours of talks at the Madrid Nato summit in late June, foreign ministers from Sweden, Finland and Turkey signed a joint security pact addressing Turkey’s concerns.

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg said Sweden had agreed to step up its work on Turkish extradition requests of suspected militants. The two Nordic nations also said they would lift their restrictions on selling weapons to Turkey, he added.

In exchange, Turkey will lift its veto on the Nordic nations joining the alliance.

After almost a year of negotiations, Finland is good to go as far as the Turks are concerned. Erdogan signaled his intentions earlier this week when he announced he would meet with the Finnish president…


…Finnish President Sauli Niinistö announced Wednesday he will meet his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Istanbul on Friday, as Ankara edges closer to signing off on Helsinki’s NATO aspirations.

“It was known that once President Erdoğan has for his part made the decision concerning the ratification of Finland’s NATO membership, he would wish to meet and fulfill his promise directly from President to President,” Niinistö said in a statement.

The Turks have hoped that I be present when they announce this decision. Of course, I accepted the invitation and I will be there to receive his expression of will,” he said.

…and the official blessing came today.

Well…that’s great! I know the Finns are relieved. But, um…what about the other guys?

To his credit, the Finnish president, Sauli Niinisto, restated his support for Sweden’s bid.

…On Friday, Mr. Niinisto thanked Mr. Erdogan for the move to ratify but told the news conference that Finland’s membership “is not complete without Sweden.”

There’s still some wrangling going on, especially over Kurdish ex-pats. Kurds make up something like 15-20% of Turkey’s population and have been hounded by Erdogan since he took power. It appears the Swedes are not willing to deal in extraditions to appease Erdogan’s ethnic witchhunts and that is impeding progress on their acceptance. One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.


…But Turkish officials say they are not fully satisfied — particularly with Sweden, which has refused to extradite dozens of Turkey’s Kurdish political opponents. A Quran-burning incident in Stockholm further escalated tensions. Talks among the three countries at NATO headquarters last week ended with no breakthrough.

Western officials still hold out hope, however, that Turkey’s parliament will also ratify Sweden’s membership — possibly after the country’s May elections and ahead of a summit of NATO leaders scheduled for July in Lithuania.

And even with Erdogan on board, while a huge half step in the right direction, Hungary emerges as the remaining stumbling block. Viktor Orban is notoriously prickly and has already slow-walked the process for Hungarian approval of the Nordic invites.

He looks as if he’s inclined to keep doing so.

…Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, has signaled support for the two nations’ NATO applications, but his government has slow-walked the issue. A parliamentary session scheduled for next week was expected to include a vote on both Finland and Sweden’s bids, but it appears likely to be postponed again.

Hungary has wielded its veto power within the European Union over sanctions against Russia to try to secure concessions on other issues, and analysts say Mr. Orban appears to be doing the same thing over Finland and Sweden joining NATO. Mr. Orban is also known to be annoyed by criticism of Hungary within the European Union from Sweden and Finland.


And the Russians? They’re playing it cool – no hair-on-fire statements or bluster…

…Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov sought to stress, “We have many times expressed regret over Finland and Sweden’s move toward membership and said many times that Russia does not pose a threat to these countries.”

“We do not have any dispute with these countries… They have never posed any threat to us and, logically, we did not threaten them,” Peskov added.


Erdogan is facing possibly the toughest reelection of his career, one even his well-honed vote-rigging skills may not be able to overcome. According to polling, the Turkish people have had enough of 85% inflation and catastrophic earthquakes made worse by the government’s sclerotic response. They are desperately searching and ready for alternatives.

Erdogan may back away from his insistence on Swedish extraditions simply because these press conferences give him the appearance of importance. He’ll gladly take an easy win on the world stage, even as he wallows at home.

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