Turkey will support Finland, Sweden joining NATO: officials

Sauli Niinistö, President of Finland, delivers brief remarks upon arriving at the U.S. Capitol to meet with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday, March 19, 2022.
Anna Rose Layden
Sauli Niinistö, President of Finland, delivers brief remarks upon arriving at the U.S. Capitol to meet with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday, March 19, 2022.

Officials said Tuesday that Turkey has dropped its objections to the bids of Finland and Sweden to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), representing a major breakthrough at a summit in Madrid.  

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö announced in a statement that Turkey had agreed to support the bids of the two Nordic countries after all three countries signed a trilateral memorandum in which they committed “to extend their full support against threats to each other’s security.” 

Niinistö said that the “concrete steps” for Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership process would be agreed to over the remaining days of the summit. 

“I am pleased to announce that we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a press conference shortly thereafter.   

Stoltenberg said the three countries had signed a memorandum addressing Turkey’s concerns and pledging to deepen cooperation on counterterrorism and support Turkey in combating threats to its national security. 

The announcement came on the first day of the NATO summit in Spain and after Ankara had protested the bids of both countries to join the alliance for weeks over stated concerns that they weren’t doing enough to combat terrorism, and particularly threats from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).  

In signing the memorandum, Sweden and Finland agreed to crack down on PKK activities and to address Turkey’s extradition requests of suspected terrorists “expeditiously and thoroughly,” according to a copy of the memorandum released by the Turkish government.

Finland and Sweden formally asked to join the alliance last month, decisions they made in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

A majority of NATO’s 30 member states have expressed support for the countries joining the alliance, which requires unanimous support on top of each country’s government ratifying new ascensions to NATO. 

The United States had advocated forcefully for both countries to join the alliance, and their bids are supported by both Democrat and Republican lawmakers. President Biden is expected to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sometime on Wednesday on the sidelines of the summit. 

Biden released a statement later praising the development, saying that Finland and Sweden’s membership would strengthen the alliance.

“I look forward to working with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, our Allies, and with Congress to ensure that we can quickly welcome them into our Alliance,” Biden said. “As we begin this historic NATO Summit in Madrid, our Alliance is stronger, more united and more resolute than ever.”

Some experts had speculated that the U.S. would offer concessions to Turkey, perhaps in the form of American-made fighter jets, in order for Ankara to pull back on its objections to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance. 

Stoltenberg said that the NATO members would formally decide to invite Sweden and Finland to join NATO on Wednesday, the second day of the summit in Madrid. 

Thereafter, the individual legislatures and parliaments of each NATO member must vote to approve the two nations’ accession, meaning it could take months for the process to be completed. 

Still, the news is a boon for NATO as it seeks to project both strength and unity in the face of mounting Russian aggression in Europe. 

The Madrid summit is taking place as Russia enters its fifth month of war in Ukraine. In recent days, Russia has launched renewed strikes on Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv even as its military campaign focuses on the eastern part of the country. 

The alliance members are expected to discuss bolstering their force posture in the Baltic states and Poland over the course of the summit. 

Laura Kelly contributed. Updated at 6:11 p.m.

Tags Biden Finland Jens Stoltenberg Joe Biden NATO membership Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Sauli Niinistö Sauli Niinistö Sweden Turkey
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