Finland and Sweden have declared their intention to join NATO, but acceptance into the military alliance requires the unanimous consent of all 30 members.
However, one such nation, Turkey, has expressed opposition to the Nordic countries’ intention.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey, a key NATO member, was “not in favor” of the possibility of Finland and Sweden joining NATO.
“We are following the developments with Sweden and Finland, but we have no favorable thoughts“, he told reporters.
And on Monday at a press conference, Erdogan reiterated his opposition to the demands of Finland and Sweden and called the latter country a as “fertile ground” for terrorist organizations.
“None of these countries has a clear and open attitude towards a terrorist organization. How can we trust them? said the Turkish president.
Erdogan also said that Swedish and Finnish diplomats who were going to Turkey to discuss this issue should not bother to travel.
“Are you going to come here on Monday to try to convince us? Excuse us, but you don’t need to bother,” Erdogan said at the conference in Ankara.
Russia, for its part, has indicated that it is closely following the NATO membership process of the Scandinavian nations.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Finland and Sweden’s decision to join the alliance did not directly threaten Moscow, but stressed that any expansion of military infrastructure would provoke a reaction from the Kremlin.
Sweden and Finland cite the Russian invasion of Ukraine behind their plans to join the alliance. Sweden said on Monday that because of this fact, Europe is experiencing a dangerous new reality.
Why is Turkey against it?
Turkey accuses the two Nordic nations of harboring members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group it considers a terrorist organization, and supporters of Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating an attempt coup in 2016. .
The PKK is a Kurdish militant group that has fought for decades as a separatist insurgency in parts of Turkey. It was designated by the United States as a terrorist organization in 1997.
turkey too was outraged by the decision of the United States and Sweden to support a PKK-affiliated militia in Syria, where the group was fighting the so-called Islamic State.
Turkey reprimanded the United States in February 2021 for this, and Ankara summoned Sweden’s ambassador to Turkey two months later.
Ankara has also raised other grievances against Sweden and Finland, including concerns about security guarantees and the blocking arms exports to Turkey.
The Turkish government had also promised block requests from countries that have imposed sanctions on it.
In 2019, the two Nordic countries imposed an arms embargo on Ankara after its incursion into Syria.
Speaking in parliament in Helsinki on Monday, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said he was surprised by Turkey’s position, but added that his government was not interested in “negotiating” with Erdogan.
Turkey, however, he did not officially say he would veto the two countries’ membership.
On Sunday, the country’s foreign ministry set several conditions for its support, including that the Nordic countries end what it calls support for “terrorist organisations” in their country, as well as bans on exports to Turkey.
On Saturday, an adviser to Erdogan told Reuters: “We are not closing the door. But we are basically raising this issue as a national security issue for Turkey.”
And on Sunday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, answering questions about Turkey’s position, said he was confident the process would move quickly.
“Turkey has been clear: its intention this is not to block membership. Therefore, I am confident that we will be able to address the concerns expressed by Turkey in a way that does not delay the accession process.”
Analysis by Paul Adams, BBC diplomatic affairs correspondent
For Finland and Sweden to join NATO, the current 30 members must say yes. But for now, we say no.
President Erdogan says he will not agree to admit countries that apply sanctions to Turkey.
Sweden suspended arms sales to Turkey three years ago, following Ankara’s military intervention in Syria. And according to Turkey’s official news agency, Finland and Sweden have rejected dozens of requests to extradite Kurdish activists that Turkey calls terrorists.
Both countries are sending delegations to Ankara to try to resolve the issue, but President Erdogan says they shouldn’t worry about it.
He seems determined to get a prize for his precious vote.
On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was confident Finland and Sweden would join the alliance, despite Turkish objections.
The issue is expected to dominate discussions between Blinken and his Turkish counterpart in Washington on Wednesday. After encouraging the two Nordic countries to apply, Washington will not want to disappoint them at the last moment.
A new era
Finland officially announced its offer to join NATO last week.
This was joined by neighboring Sweden on Saturday in a move that will put an end to the military non-alignment that the Scandinavian country has maintained for years.
“NATO will strengthen Sweden, Sweden will strengthen NATOPrime Minister Magdalena Andersson said during a Monday briefing.
“We are leaving an era and entering a new one,” Andersson told lawmakers during a debate in Stockholm.
He added that a formal request could be submitted in a few days and would be coordinated with Finland.
However, Andersson pointed out that Sweden did not want permanent NATO bases or nuclear weapons on its territory.
Norway, Denmark and Iceland, all Nordic members of NATO, immediately declared that they were ready to support Sweden and Finland by any means necessary if they were attacked.
The United Kingdom, also a member of NATO, has already given security guarantees to Sweden and Finland to cover the transition period.
Sweden’s announcement on Monday came as NATO began one of its largest exercises in the Baltic region, involving some 15,000 troops.
The exercises in Estonia, called “Hedgehog”, involve 10 countries, including Finland and Sweden.
NATO has already indicated its willingness to admit the two new members to the alliance.