MADRID – NATO leaders will formally invite Finland and Sweden to join the alliance on Wednesday after Turkey lifted its veto on their membership, NATO’s secretary general said Tuesday evening, paving the way for what is one of the most significant expansions of the alliance in decades.
The landmark deal, which followed Turkey’s agreement to a memorandum with the two Scandinavian countries, underlined how the war in Ukraine has backfired on President Vladimir V. Putin, nullified Russia’s efforts to weaken NATO and Sweden and Finland, which had been neutral and unaligned for decades, were pressured into the arms of the alliance.
After weeks of talks, culminating in an hour-long meeting in Madrid, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to lift his blockade on the membership of Sweden and Finland in return for a series of actions and promises to act against terrorism and terrorist acts. organizations.
“As NATO allies, Finland and Sweden commit to fully support Turkey against threats to its national security,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who provided some details of the agreement. “This includes further amending their national legislation, cracking down on PKK activities and concluding an agreement with Turkey on extradition,” he added, referring to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party seeking an independent Kurdish state in territory partly within the borders of Turkey.
Mr Erdogan blocked the Scandinavian countries’ NATO bids out of concern over Sweden’s long-standing support for the PKK, which has attacked non-military targets and killed civilians in Turkey, is banned in that country and has been banned by both the United States and the United States. European Union has been designated as a terrorist organisation.
Understanding the war between Russia and Ukraine better
But the memorandum does not mention the extradition of one of the approximately 45 people Erdogan wanted to send to Turkey to face charges of terrorism. Sweden has already passed tougher anti-terrorism legislation that will come into effect on July 1.
Both Finland and Sweden had been militarily non-aligned for many years, but decided to join the alliance after Russia invaded Ukraine in February. With Russia attacking a neighboring country, both countries felt vulnerable, although Sweden, with a long tradition of neutrality, was more hesitant.
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia warned both countries against joining NATO, but his threats proved counterproductive.
The two countries bring geostrategic benefits to the alliance. Finland shares an 830-mile border with Russia and has a well-equipped modern army; Sweden can control access to the Baltic Sea, which will help NATO’s planning to defend the more vulnerable countries in Eastern Europe.
The final push to resolve the dispute began early Tuesday morning, when President Biden telephoned Mr. Erdogan to urge him to “seize the moment” on the eve of the summit to continue discussions on other topics, it said. a senior government official. with knowledge of the discussion.
The official, who requested anonymity to discuss private deliberations, said the president has conveyed the contents of his conversation with Erdogan to the leaders of Finland and Sweden. And after several hours of negotiations later that evening, the two Nordic leaders met again with Mr Biden before announcing the deal with Turkey.
The US official said the deal between Turkey and the two Nordic countries involved a series of compromises on both sides, including Turkey’s statement that Finland and Sweden were welcome to run and issues related to an arms embargo against Turkey and the belief of Turkey that Finland and Sweden had provided safe havens to groups they considered to be terrorists.
US officials had for days downplayed Biden’s role in the negotiations, saying he would not act as a mediator between the other countries, stressing that it was up to Turkey, Finland and Sweden to resolve their differences.
After the deal was announced Tuesday evening, the senior government official admitted it was considered more diplomatic to publicly minimize Mr Biden’s involvement. This prevented Turkey from making concessions to the United States to lift its veto, which may have complicated talks, the official said.
The next steps for Finland and Sweden are clear: NATO will vote on Wednesday to accept their applications. There will also be a rapid study of their defense capabilities and needs. But the talks are expected to be routine as both countries are NATO partners and have practiced alongside NATO allies.
The more difficult final step requires the legislators of all 30 current members to vote to amend NATO’s founding treaty to accept the new members. That has taken up to a year in the past, but is expected to go much faster for the Scandinavian countries.
The US Senate is already holding hearings on the application and Mr. Biden is a strong supporter of the new members.
Johanna Lemola contributed reporting from Helsinki, Finland.