The NATO countries are trying to dissuade Turkey from its opposition to the admission of Sweden and Finland into the military alliance. US President Joe Biden will receive Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö this Thursday.
At the meeting in the US capital Washington, the main focus will be on the NATO applications of the two northern EU states, which are currently being blocked by Turkey. The US government expressed confidence that it would be possible to find a solution to the differences in the end.
Against the background of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, Sweden and Finland officially applied for membership in the transatlantic alliance on Wednesday. Finland is the EU country with the longest national border with Russia. However, Turkey carried out its threats and initially blocked a quick start to accession talks with the two countries in the NATO Council. The government in Ankara raised security concerns over the alleged support of both countries for the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party PKK and the Kurdish militia YPG in Syria.
It is unclear how Turkey can be prevented from vetoing Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership. According to diplomats, in addition to declarations by the northern countries on the fight against terrorism, arms deals hoped for by Turkey could also play a role. The government in Ankara wants to buy F-16 fighter jets in the USA – but a possible deal was politically controversial in Washington recently.
The US government was optimistic that a solution would be possible. “We are confident that Finland and Sweden will ultimately have an effective and efficient accession process that can address Turkey’s concerns,” Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said at the White House on Wednesday (local time). “Finland and Sweden are working directly with Turkey to achieve this, but we are also speaking to the Turks to try and facilitate the process.”
Sullivan said he and Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, spoke to their respective Turkish counterparts on Wednesday – “and we are very optimistic about the further development”. Despite the talks with the USA, Turkey is sticking to its stance for the time being. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said after the meeting with his counterpart that he had made Turkey’s position on the northern expansion of the military alliance clear to Blinken. In principle, however, Cavusoglu rated the talks as “extremely positive”. Blinken said Turkey’s concerns were legitimate, Cavusoglu said.
US President Biden is confident that Finland and Sweden will join NATO. “I think that’s OK,” Biden responded to a reporter’s question about the Turkish resistance.
Biden welcomed Finland and Sweden’s applications for NATO membership and underlined his government’s commitment to the alliance. Biden said he strongly supports the “historic motions.” He is looking forward to working with the US Congress and NATO allies “to quickly incorporate Finland and Sweden into the strongest defense alliance in history.” While the requests were being considered, the US would work with Finland and Sweden to remain vigilant against threats to common security and to counter aggression.
The top NATO military officers responsible for defense are also meeting in Brussels this Thursday. Among other things, it should go to the NATO summit in June and Russia’s war against Ukraine. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will also attend one of the meetings.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has meanwhile made it clear publicly that he will make approval of Sweden and Finland joining NATO conditional on approaching his country on security issues. For Turkey, NATO expansion goes hand in hand with the respect shown to its sensitivities, he said in a speech to his conservative Islamic ruling party, the AKP, in Ankara on Wednesday.
Sweden and Finland wanted to continue supporting “terrorist organizations”, but at the same time Turkey’s approval for NATO membership, Erdogan criticized. “To put it mildly, that’s a contradiction.” Sweden specifically accused Erdogan of refusing to extradite 30 “terrorists”. “NATO is a security association, a security organization. In this respect, we cannot say yes to making this security body unsafe,” said Erdogan.
Erdogan describes supporters of the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party PKK, which is also considered a terrorist organization in the USA and Europe, as “terrorists”. Turkey also sees the Kurdish militia YPG in Syria as a terrorist organization – for the USA, on the other hand, the YPG in Syria is an ally.
Should Turkey give up its reservations about joining NATO, everything should happen very quickly. The so-called accession protocols could then be signed as early as June and the ratification procedures could begin in the member states. Ideally, Finland and Sweden would then be NATO members by the end of the year. However, should Ankara remain firm, the alliance would be powerless because of the unanimity principle that applies to all decisions.