Sweden, Finland speed up NATO membership… Turkey appeasement ‘variable’

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[이데일리 김혜미 기자 뉴욕=김정남 특파원] Sweden and Finland are speeding up their membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The two countries agreed to proceed together in all processes, including submitting an official application on the 18th (local time).

US President Joe Biden is expected to hold talks with the leaders of these countries to bolster NATO membership. However, in order to join NATO, the consent of all 30 member countries is required, and whether Turkey, which has shown a strong opposition, will change its position remains a variable.

Finnish President Sauli Ninistö (left) and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson hold a joint press conference on NATO accession in Stockholm on the 17th. photo AFP

Sweden and Finland “Submit application for NATO membership on the 18th”

According to major foreign media on the 17th, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Ninistö held a joint press conference in Stockholm to sign an official application for NATO membership and announced that they would submit it on the 18th. “Finland and Sweden have agreed to go through the whole process together,” Niinistö said.

Prime Minister Andersson said, “NATO member countries will strengthen the security of not only Sweden but also the Baltic region.

The announcement came two days after Finland announced its intention to join NATO and one day after Sweden announced its intention. The Finnish parliament approved the government’s proposal to join NATO with an overwhelming majority of 188 out of 200 seats.

Finland is 810 miles (1300 km) away from Russia and has maintained neutrality or no alliance since World War II. Sweden has not formed a military alliance for more than two centuries. In other words, both countries considered joining NATO as an unnecessary provocation against Russia, but changed their perception after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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“The Russian attack on Ukraine has changed everything,” Ninistö said. Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO will make the Nordic region a stronghold of democracy, welfare and human rights as well as security.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on the 16th that Finland and Sweden had no problem joining NATO, but expressed discomfort. “We will respond if our military infrastructure expands,” Putin said. This is something that deserves extra attention in Russia,” he warned.

Biden boosts bilateral summit with… Turkey strongly opposes

President Biden will hold a meeting with Prime Minister Andersson and President Ninistö at the White House on the 19th to discuss joining NATO. President Biden has already stated that he supports the two countries joining NATO.

US President Joe Biden. photo AFP

White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre said in a statement that “the leaders will discuss Finland and Sweden’s application for NATO membership and European security,” adding that “they will strengthen their close partnership, including support for Ukraine.”

President Biden’s push for a White House meeting with the leaders of the two countries also seems to have a level of pressure to win approval from Turkey. In order to join NATO, the consent of all 30 member countries is required, but Turkey has opposed Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO for security reasons.

Turkey has maintained its position of not supporting accession, citing Sweden and Finland’s history of accommodating Kurdish rebels and the fact that in 2019 they agreed to ban arms exports for Turkey’s military operations in Syria.

“Turkey’s position has changed very quickly and has become more solid in the last few days,” said President Niinistö. “Sweden is looking forward to bilateral talks with Turkey,” Andersson said. I see an opportunity to develop bilateral relations when Sweden and Turkey become NATO members,” he said.

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Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on the 16th that he would oppose Finland and Sweden’s application to join NATO, and that it would be pointless for diplomats to visit Turkey to discuss it. Turkey alleges that Finland and Sweden are providing hiding places for people with links to groups that they have identified as terrorists.

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