Sweden, Finland consider joining NATO as they speak out against Turkey

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday expressed doubts about possible Sweden and Finland. Joining the NATO defense alliance is a sign of disagreement In an effort to restructure Europe’s security architecture after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Turkey’s warning came a day after a landmark recommendation from Finland’s leaders that the country should join NATO and that Swedish leaders were present. Ready to follow their lead this weekend – a geopolitical earthquake decades later where countries were firmly neutral.

The war in Ukraine has changed the attitude of both countries and has started a wide-ranging discussion in Europe on how to defend against a more dangerous Russia. Leaders of most NATO countries have indicated that they welcome Finnish and Swedish membership and believe it will strengthen the alliance. NATO leaders were expected to sign the expansion at the June summit in Madrid – or so it was planned until Erdogan’s remarks on Friday.

Consensus is needed to approve new NATO members, which means Erdogan’s resistance could be a significant obstacle. Russia has threatened to retaliate if Finland and Sweden join.

From Neutral to NATO: How Finland, Sweden Moved About Russian Invasion.

At least, Erdogan The Kurdistan Workers ‘Party, or PKK, has been fighting a decade-long uprising against Turkey, and a group considered a terrorist movement by Ankara and the United States has been described as a sign of Sweden’s desire to host members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. States

“We are following developments with Sweden and Finland, but we do not have favorable thinking,” Erdogan told reporters on Friday.

Although he refrained from vetoing possible membership bids, the Turkish leader accused the Nordic countries of harboring “terrorist organizations”.

The dispute shows that NATO solidarity was limited to the conflict in Ukraine, after 26 months of war. Many NATO countries have provided arms and other assistance to Ukraine, and there is widespread agreement that the alliance needs to strengthen its defenses against Russia. But as discussions continue on how to strengthen NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe, there are divisions over exactly how to respond.

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Conflicts are particularly important because Ukrainian and Western officials have warned that the conflict is not moving quickly and that it could drag on for months or years, putting pressure on Western unity.

“We are entering a new, long phase of the war,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov wrote on Facebook on Friday. “To win this, we must carefully plan the resources, avoid mistakes and present our strengths in such a way that the enemy is finally defeated.”

Erdogan’s suspicions were a change from previous talks between NATO on possible membership bids from Helsinki and Stockholm, where there was a consensus agreement that, if informal, the existing 30 members would welcome two more. Erdogan last faced presidential and parliamentary elections in June 2023, and his remarks were probably aimed, at least in part, at his domestic audience, often rewarding a sharp stance on the Kurdish minority.

But they could also strain relations with Washington at a time when Turkey’s support for Ukraine during the conflict is heating up. They could escalate tensions with other NATO countries. Erdogan has a long track record of using NATO consensus-driven policymakers to get concessions on other issues. In this instance, he could target the United States, analysts say, with potential claims regarding US-made F-35 warplanes, or US dealings with the Kurds in Syria.

“He has done this before,” said a retired U.S. Navy spokesman. James Foggo, dean of the Center for Maritime Strategy, a think tank. “He will use it as a leverage to get a good deal for Turkey.”

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US diplomats say they will talk to Turkey.

The United States has “sought to clarify Turkey’s position,” Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried told reporters. “It is not clear to me that Turkey says it will oppose Sweden’s appeal.”

The Secretary of State was Anthony Blinken NATO foreign ministers, comprising top diplomats from Finland, Sweden and Turkey, are preparing to travel to Germany on Saturday for a meeting.

“Of course it’s going to be a conversation that will continue over the weekend,” Donfried said.

The Biden administration says it supports the membership bids of Finland and Sweden and will work to ensure support within the alliance – assuming the two countries Apply formally.

Amid strained US-Turkish relations, Biden and Erdogan will meet on the sidelines of a NATO summit.

President Biden spoke Friday with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson and Finnish President Sauli NinistāĻŸ about his support for NATO’s open door policy and Finland’s and Sweden’s own future, foreign policy and security decision-making power, the White House said in a statement. Spoke.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, meanwhile, spoke Friday with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for the first time since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, calling for an immediate ceasefire and emphasizing the importance of maintaining a line of communication, the Pentagon said.

If Turkey wins, NATO leaders are expected to formally approve the applications of Finland and Sweden at their summit in June. Then the national legislatures have to approve it. The whole process could take six months to a year, officials say. Hungary, led by Kremlin-friendly Prime Minister Victor Urban, could also be a question mark, although he has agreed in previous rounds of NATO expansion.

Finland already appears to be facing Russian pressure over its NATO membership. On Friday, a Russian-owned energy company, RAO Nordic, said it planned to stop selling electricity in Finland on Saturday for non-payment.

Swedish policymakers say previous talks with their Turkish counterparts on NATO membership have been positive, and have suggested that they see Erdogan’s threat as a bargaining chip.

Swedish Foreign Minister Anne Linde told a Swedish broadcaster on Friday that “we know that the ratification process always involves some uncertainty, not least that you want to use the ratification for domestic policy.”

He said he believed Sweden would have the power to negotiate if it decided to apply for membership.

“I think we will have very strong support from members of the big, important countries, with whom Turkey is also interested in having good relations,” he said.

Linde told reporters early Friday that she was in favor of becoming a member.

“Swedish NATO membership will increase the extent of military conflict and thus have a conflict-prevention effect in Northern Europe,” he said. “Military neutrality has served us well, but we are now in a new situation.”

A parliamentary report released on Friday The headline “Deterioration of the security environment – implications for Sweden”, although Sweden refrained from ruling on whether it should join NATO, noted that the country’s security would be “adversely affected” if Finland joined and left Sweden as the only non-member of the Nordic. Baltic region.

The report said that the attack on Ukraine, which is a NATO partner but not a member, showed the danger of staying out of the alliance’s joint defense structure.

The report also outlines the dangers of joining NATO, acknowledging that Russia would “react negatively” to any such move. The most likely response would include “various kinds of influence activities” against the general public or Swedish decision-makers, he said, emphasizing the importance of Sweden’s assurances of protection from allied countries in any transitional period before full membership.

Sweden and Finland have been outside the US-led Cold War alliance since its founding in 1949, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted both countries to choose one side.

Finland’s president and prime minister said Thursday that their nation must “apply for NATO membership without delay.” The decision is expected to be approved by Parliament in the coming days.

Sweden is likely to follow Finland’s lead, diplomats said, adding that a formal request had been sent to NATO early next week.

Jeanne Karatas and Karim Fahim in Istanbul; Riga, Liz Sly, Latvia; And Dan Lamoth in Washington contributed to this report.

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