In what NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called “a historic decision,” Turkey agreed to give. On Tuesday, an agreement was reached to lift Turkey’s opposition to allowing Sweden and Finland into the international military alliance. (See Finland Wants NATO Inclusion and Neutral No More.)
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted Finland (which shares a long border with Russia) and neighboring Sweden to abandon their long-held neutral status. The two nations applied to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in May. Under NATO treaties, an attack on any member would be considered an attack against all. It would trigger a military response by the entire alliance.
But NATO operates by unanimous consensus. And member nation Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had threatened to block the Nordic pair. He insisted they must change their stance on Kurdish rebel groups. Turkey considers these groups terrorists.
After weeks of diplomacy and hours of talks on Tuesday, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said the three leaders had signed a joint agreement to break the logjam.
Leaders of the 30-nation alliance issued a formal invitation to the two countries on Wednesday. The decision must be ratified by all 30 individual nations. But Stoltenberg says, “I expect also that to go rather quickly because allies are ready to try to make that ratification process happen as quickly as possible.” He says he is “absolutely confident” that Finland and Sweden will become members within the next few months.
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson says the agreement is “good for Finland and Sweden. And it’s good for NATO.”
Turkey hailed Tuesday’s agreement as a triumph. It says the Nordic nations agreed to crack down on groups that Ankara (Turkey’s capital and seat of government) deems national security threats. These include the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and its Syrian extension.
Turkey has demanded that Finland and Sweden extradite wanted individuals and lift arms restrictions imposed after Turkey’s 2019 military incursion into northeast Syria.
Turkey, in turn, agreed “to support at the 2022 Madrid Summit the invitation of Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO.”
The agreement came at the opening of the crucial summit. The agenda is dominated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which will set the course of the alliance for the coming years. The summit kicks off with a leaders’ dinner hosted by Spain’s King Felipe VI at the 18th-century Royal Palace of Madrid.
Top of the agenda in meetings Wednesday and Thursday is strengthening defenses against Russia and supporting Ukraine. In the Strategic Concept, NATO is set to declare Russia its number one threat.
(Representatives from Finland, Turkey, and Sweden pose with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, third from left, after signing a memorandum in which Turkey agrees to Finland and Sweden’s membership in the defense alliance in Madrid, Spain, on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. AP/Bernat Armangue)