Turkey’s leader opposes Finland and Sweden joining NATO

HELSINKI (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday his country is “not in favor” of Finland and Sweden joining NATO, signaling Turkey could use its status as a member of the alliance Western military to veto moves to admit the two countries. .

“We are closely following the developments related to Sweden and Finland, but we do not have a favorable opinion,” Erdogan told reporters.

The Turkish leader explained his opposition by citing alleged support from Sweden and other Scandinavian countries for Kurdish militants and others whom Turkey regards as terrorists. He also accused Greece, a NATO ally, of using the alliance against Turkey and said Ankara did not want that “mistake” to be repeated.

Erdogan did not say outright that he would block any accession attempt by the two Nordic nations, but NATO makes all of its decisions by consensus, meaning each of the 30 member countries has a potential veto over who can join.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that Finland and Sweden, should they formally apply to join the world’s largest security organisation, would be welcomed with open arms.

The accession procedure could take place in “a couple of weeks”, several NATO officials have said, although member countries could take around 6 months to ratify the accession protocol.

In the meantime. A Swedish government report on the change in the security environment facing the Nordic country after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine says Moscow would react negatively to Sweden’s NATO entry and launch various countermeasures.

The analysis of the Swedish government’s security policy, which will be used as the basis for Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s Cabinet to decide whether to seek membership in the Western military alliance, was presented to Swedish lawmakers on Friday.

Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic Party, led by Andersson, is expected to reveal its decision on Sunday.

The report noted that NATO membership carries a number of advantages for Sweden, most notably the collective security provided by the 30-member military alliance. At the same time, it lists numerous tactics that Russia is likely to adopt in retaliation.

These would include cyber attacks and different types of hybrid attacks, violations of Swedish airspace or the territorial sea. Other aggressive behavior, including nuclear-armed strategic signaling, is also conceivable from Moscow, according to the report.

The report states that Russia’s war in Ukraine limits the possibilities for attacks on other countries, but that Russia still has the capacity for a limited number of hostile measures against countries such as Sweden.

The report makes no recommendations on whether Sweden should join NATO or not. Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde told lawmakers in the Riksdagen legislature that “an armed attack on Sweden cannot be ruled out” and pointed to the security guarantee NATO membership would offer.

The president and prime minister of Nordic neighbor Finland said on Thursday they favor a swift application for NATO membership, paving the way for the country to formally announce its candidacy in coming days.

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Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey.

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