Finland and Sweden closer to joining NATO with deal with Turkey

Finland and Sweden took a big step towards NATO membership after Turkey dropped its opposition to their offers, virtually ensuring the military alliance’s expansion on Russia’s doorstep.

The move “sends a very clear message to President Putin that the door to NATO is open,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters at the start of an alliance summit in Madrid. β€œHe wanted less NATO, now President Putin is getting more NATO, on his borders. So what he gets is the opposite of what he actually demanded.”

Turkey agreed to support inviting the two Nordic countries to the military alliance, after receiving promises from Finland and Sweden to address their security concerns, including curbing Kurdish groups Turkey views as terrorists and avoiding arms embargoes.

“The talks were intense and tough, not in the mood, but in terms of the topic, and after four hours we reached an agreement,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said. “Turkey becoming an ally now could affect considerations” on arms export permits made on a case-by-case basis, he added.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization membership for the two formerly neutral countries would mark a significant change in the European security landscape after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier met with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, Niinisto and Stoltenberg.

The accession process will still take many months, including ratification by the parliaments of NATO allies, before Finland and Sweden become members and can benefit from the alliance’s Article 5 collective defense commitments. Stoltenberg said he expected the allies to sign the Nordic countries’ accession protocols “immediately” after the summit. All 30 members of the alliance must sign.

A senior US administration official said President Joe Biden’s goal was to help get the deal over the finish line. Biden told Erdogan in a phone call Tuesday morning that he should seize the moment and finalize negotiations for a deal during the Madrid summit.

There were no US concessions to Turkey to get the deal over the finish line and Turkey never linked longstanding US requests such as F-16 fighter jets to any agreement to allow Sweden and Finland begin the process of joining the alliance, the official said. reporters Tuesday night after it was announced.

“It’s good for the security of Sweden and Finland, but it’s equally good for NATO, as we would contribute to the common security of the alliance,” Andersson said in a telephone interview. “Sweden and Finland were able to explain our work against terrorism and how we have tightened the legislation and will continue to strengthen it.”

The United States has emphasized that bringing Finland and Sweden into the fold could make the alliance more secure. Turkey’s blockade complicated allies’ efforts to present a united front in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Sweden has toughened laws on terrorism in recent years and further steps are being taken in that direction. Niinisto has said Finland’s anti-terror legislation is on par with current NATO members after a revamp last year.

Nordic nations have also highlighted constitutional protections for freedom of expression, meaning they cannot prevent peaceful Kurdish demonstrations, and said any extradition requested by Turkey must be ruled by the courts. When it comes to lifting arms export bans, Andersson noted in June that Swedish authorities who grant arms export approvals may have a different opinion about shipments to Turkey in light of the NATO membership offer. .

Throughout the negotiations, Finland and Sweden have insisted that they meet all of NATO’s entry criteria.

Finland, which has a 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) border with Russia and a history of wars with its eastern neighbor, was pushed into the NATO fold by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, dragging neighboring Sweden with it.

The attack changed popular opinion overnight, and lawmakers quickly began the process of joining.

The armies of both nations are NATO-compliant and include a large number of artillery and tanks. Finland has stuck to a conscription-based system, which means around 900,000 citizens in a country of 5.5 million have received military training, and can deploy 280,000 of them in times of war. Sweden brought back compulsory military service starting in 2018.

In December, Finland decided to buy 64 F-35A multirole fighter jets from Lockheed Martin Corp. to replace its aging F/A-18 Hornets in a €10 billion ($10.5 billion) acquisition, and Sweden’s Saab AB is making a plethora of defense. systems, including JAS Gripen fighter jets and submarines.

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