In mid-May 2022, Finland and Sweden made news when they applied for membership in NATO, much to the chagrin of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Now, according to a report Friday, it appears that process is moving toward fruition before the end of the summer.
Via the AP:
ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that his government would move forward with ratifying Finland’s NATO application, paving the way for the country to join the military bloc ahead of Sweden.
The breakthrough came as Finnish President Sauli Niinisto was in Ankara to meet with Erdogan. Both Finland and Sweden applied to become NATO members 10 months ago in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, abandoning decades of nonalignmen t.
NATO requires the unanimous approval of its 30 existing members to expand, and Turkey and Hungary are the only countries that have not yet ratified the Nordic nations’ bids. The Turkish government accused both Sweden and Finland of being too soft on groups that it deems to be terror organizations, but expressed more reservations about Sweden.
“When it comes to fulfilling its pledges in the trilateral memorandum of understanding, we have seen that Finland has taken authentic and concrete steps,” Erdogan told a news conference in Ankara following his meeting with Niinisto.
“This sensitivity for our country’s security and, based on the progress that has been made in the protocol for Finland’s accession to NATO, we have decided to initiate the ratification process in our parliament,” the president added.
Ergogan also made remarks about Sweden’s prospects:
Commenting on Turkey’s willingness to consider ratifying Sweden’s accession to NATO, Erdogan said it would “depend on the solid steps Sweden will take.”
Explaining the difference between the Nordic countries from Ankara’s viewpoint, Erdogan claimed that Sweden had “embraced terrorism,” and cited demonstrations by supporters of Kurdish militants on the streets of Stockholm. “Such demonstrations do not take place in Finland,” he said. “For that reason we had to consider (Finland) separately from Sweden.”
Back in May 2022, Pres. Erdogan was dancing a much different jig, as my colleague Bob Hoge wrote:
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also opposed to the applications, saying on Monday that Sweden was a “hatchery” for terrorism, and even had terrorists in its parliament. “Neither of these countries have a clear, open attitude towards terrorist organizations,” Erdogan said. “How can we trust them?”
By late June, though, Erdogan withdrew his veto for both nations to join. Streiff wrote:
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.
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 G?len Movement, whom Erdogan blames for a 2016 coup attempt.
As far as Hungary goes, the AP reported:
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and lawmakers have promised to ratify the two country’s NATO membership applications. But the country’s parliament has repeatedly postponed a ratification vote.
The parliamentary head of Orban’s Fidesz party said Friday that a vote on Finnish accession would be held on March 27.
That said, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto sounded upbeat about the timeline for entry to NATO. AP reported Niinisto anticipates his country will “meet the alliance of 32 members” in July–at Vilnius, Lithuania, the site of the next NATO summit.