Will Turkey stop Sweden and Finland from joining NATO? Government officials from Finland and Sweden will meet with Turkish officials on Monday to discuss the two Nordic countries’ bid to join NATO. Turkey, however, has had serious objections over their bids to join the alliance, which have slowed the fast-track process that other members were trying to implement.
Seeing Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, Sweden and Finland announced separately last month that each would submit applications to join NATO. The two countries have long held their neutrality, however, they’ve been building a closer relationship with NATO and have taken part in some exercises with the alliance. Finland shares a 1,300km (about 800 miles) border with Russia.
The decision to join NATO now had much to do with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion and subsequent actions that make them believe that Russia isn’t content with just trying to rebuild the former Soviet Union. The decision to join NATO was largely welcomed by other NATO members of the alliance.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has thrown cold water on the hope that this would be a quick move to bring the two countries into NATO, however. Two major sticking points for Erdogan are Sweden’s decision to allow Kurdish dissidents to live and operate inside Sweden and the decision by both countries to support an arms embargo levied on Turkey after it sent troops into Syria in 2019.
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, (PKK), is recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, and others. Turkey says that Sweden has allowed terrorists from that organization may have loose connections with another Kurdish organization the PYD. Erdogan wants Sweden to extradite Kurdish “terrorists” to Turkey.
Turkey’s Demands Remain Unchanged Prior To the Meeting
The state-run official news site, the Andalou agency of Turkey published that although the three sides will meet in Brussels to discuss the ascension into NATO, their objections that have been clearly spelled out will not change.
Turkey’s presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin has said that unless Sweden takes steps to end the PKK terrorist group’s ability to operate inside their territory, then they will block their bid.
The piece said that the PKK published social media posts showing its flag in Stockholm. That was unacceptable Kalin said. “I would like to express once again that the process will not progress until such threats against Turkey’s security in these countries are eliminated,” Kalin added.
Back in May, President Joe Biden hosted President Sauli Niinisto of Finland and Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden at the White House and vowed to speed the process of allowing them to join the alliance. All 30 members of NATO must approve any addition to the alliance.
Biden said that Finland and Sweden had contributed to conflicts in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq and that they were strong democracies that “meet every NATO requirement and then some.”
“Finland and Sweden make NATO stronger,” he added, “not just because of their capacity but because they’re strong strong democracies.”
Russia Denies Ukraine Invasion the Cause of Sweden and Finland’s Decision:
In an interview with the BBC, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei, Lavrov denied that Russia’s invasion was the cause of the Baltic countries’ decisions to join NATO. Lavrov even went further stating that “Russia didn’t invade Ukraine.”
However, Lavrov stated that it was not a failure of Russian diplomacy, but was simply the fact that both countries “are exercising their sovereign right as their government sees fit.” But he did say that both Sweden and Finland have been under the orders of Anglo-Saxons for quite some time as NATO and the EU have grown closer.
He added that widespread support for joining the alliance didn’t exist in either country.
“They don’t really take into account the opinion of their people in the same way that NATO ignores the opinion of lots of people in different countries when it’s carrying out its tasks,” he said.
NATO Chief Stoltenberg: “Historic step For Our Security
Last week, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg visited Sweden and reaffirmed the alliance’s commitment to the security of each country. Appearing at a press conference with Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, Stoltenberg stated that “Sweden and Finland’s security matters for NATO”.
He added that his staff was working with the members of the Swedish and Finnish governments as well as with Turkey to address Ankara’s legitimate concerns about the terrorist group the PKK.
During the application process, Sweden and Finland have received security guarantees from NATO and Stoltenberg added that Sweden is currently hosting BALTOPS 2022, NATO’s largest exercise in the Baltic Sea which involves over 7,000 troops from 14 Allies and partners, including Sweden and Finland.
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 10 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.
Andrew M Winter
June 20, 2022 at 10:09 am
I truly hope that Finland and Sweden are up for an honest conversation with Turkey. Turkey’s long confrontation with Kurdish violence, provoked or otherwise, is long over due for a fair airing in the media and the geopolitical arena.
The hardline stances taken by some people in support of the Kurds has caused Turkey a great deal of heartburn. Respectful dialogue to address that heartburn is desperately needed.
June 20, 2022 at 12:02 pm
There is a place called “Kurdistan”, and it is a place in which many Kurdish people live. It would seem to me that one way out of this dilemma would be for the Kurdish exiles living in Sweden to relocate to Kurdistan. I am sure they would be welcome there. Turkey might prefer that they be extradited, but that might be a step too far for Sweden.