Finland and Sweden Prepare to Join NATO as Turkey's Erdogan Withdraws His Veto

Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has removed his objections to the applications for NATO membership submitted by Sweden and Finland, guaranteeing those two previously unaligned nations will join the West’s bulwark alliance against Russian aggression.


In May, Sweden and Finland announced they would ask to become members of the NATO military alliance. This was an unprecedented step that even the threat of the USSR had not been able to accomplish (Finland Announces It Will Join NATO, Sweden to Follow, While Moscow Makes Its Usual Threats). Vladimir Putin’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine did accomplish what Joe Stalin couldn’t in no small part because Putin began making noises about reestablishing the boundaries of the Romanov’s Imperial Russia (Did a Quickly Deleted Essay in Russian Media Explain What Vladimir Putin Wants Russia to Gain From the Ukraine Invasion? and Putin’s Threats to Sweden and Finland Are Much More Real Than They Are Being Given Credit For).

Just as things seemed settled–even Putin’s closest friend in NATO, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, approved of the new members (Hungary’s Viktor Orban Clears the Way for Finland to Join NATO in a Matter of Months)–Erdogan threw in a stink bomb.

Erdogan has voiced opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO in the past week, saying their support for the Kurds raises questions about adding the two countries as NATO members. A senior Turkish official told Bloomberg Friday that Turkey wants Finland and Sweden to take a clear stance against Kurdish militants fighting in southeast Turkey, and that Turkey will hold negotiations over their membership. Erdogan’s spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin clarified Saturday that Turkey isn’t attempting to block Finland and Sweden’s bids entirely, but wants to ensure that the national security of all NATO members is taken into consideration.


As talks developed, it became apparent that Erdogan wanted three things. First, he wanted an arms embargo Sweden and Finland had imposed on Turkey over its ongoing war with various Kurdish groups lifted. He wanted Sweden to cut all ties with the Kurdish PKK faction. Finally, he wanted Sweden and Finland to extradite Kurdish militants as well as members of the Gülen Movement, whom Erdogan blames for a 2016 coup attempt.

Turkey is a member of NATO for precisely one reason: it controls the Bosporus and Dardanelles. During the Cold War, that key piece of geography bottled up the Soviet Black Sea Fleet and secured the Eastern Mediterranean. It is an economic basket case with no cultural, linguistic, political, or religious points of commonality to the West. Since the demise of the USSR, Turkey’s actions could frequently be mistaken for those of a Russian ally in the correct lighting. It cooperated with the Russians in the war in Syria. Its military links to Russia became so troubling that it was booted from the lucrative F-35 grift. Turkey has nearly gone to war with Greece several times over Cyprus and Greece’s exclusive economic zone n the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean. In my personal opinion, Turkey’s possession of “The Straits” is less important than its political instability and inability to cooperate with NATO on major issues. Were it up to me; I’d give them their severance papers and let them deal with Iran as best they can.


The day before the NATO Summit in Madrid, Turkey said it was fine with Sweden and Finland joining the club.

“As NATO allies, Finland and Sweden commit to fully support Turkey against threats to its national security,” NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, providing some details of the agreement. “This includes further amending their domestic legislation, cracking down on P.K.K. activities and entering into an agreement with Turkey on extradition,” he added, referring to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party which seeks an independent Kurdish state on territory partly within Turkey’s borders.

Mr. Erdogan had been blocking the Nordic countries’ NATO bids amid concerns over Sweden’s longtime support for the P.K.K. which has attacked nonmilitary targets and killed civilians in Turkey, is outlawed in that country and is designated by both the United States and the European Union as a terrorist organization.

But the memorandum does not specify the extradition of any of the 45 people or so Mr. Erdogan wanted sent to Turkey to face trial on terrorism charges. Sweden has already passed tougher legislation against terrorism that goes into effect July 1.

This move creates a permanent change in European security arrangements. Sweden and Finland bring two highly regarded and well-equipped armies into NATO. Moreover, both nations are on track to reach the NATO target of spending 2% of GDP on defense by 2023, something most NATO nations fail to do.


Turkey’s acquiescence to a move that definitely hurts Putin’s expansion goals in the Arctic and goes a long way toward making Russia’s Northern and Baltic Fleets impotent and confined to port in case of a crisis with NATO. It means that Erdogan has decided that, for the time being, it is to Turkey’s advantage to cast his lot with NATO and not with his former BFF Vladimir Putin.





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