Russian-Ukrainian war: Sweden follows Finland on the way to NATO, but Turkey announces its refusal

Russian-Ukrainian war: Sweden follows Finland on the way to NATO, but Turkey announces its refusal

STOCKHOLM / HELSINKI.- The Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday that his country “is not favorable” to Finland and Sweden join NATO, indicating that Turkey could use its status as a member of the Western military alliance to veto on the entry of the two countries.

The membership process of a new member which requires the unanimity of all the countries that are part of the North Atlantic Alliance.

“We are following the developments related to Sweden and Finland, but we don’t have a favorable opinion,” Erdogan told reporters, explaining his opposition by quoting the alleged support of Sweden and other Scandinavian countries for Kurdish militants and others whom Turkey considers to be terrorists.

Plus he said he didn’t want to repeat Turkey’s past “mistake” when it agreed to readmit Greece into NATO’s military wing in 1980. He claimed the action enabled Greece to “take a stand against Turkey by supporting NATO”.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir PutinReuters

Erdogan has not openly said that he will block any attempt by the two Nordic countries to join, but NATO takes all its decisions by consensus, which means that each of the 30 member countries has a potential veto over who can join.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that Finland and Sweden, If they made a formal application to join the largest security organization in the world, they would be welcomed with open arms.

Meanwhile, an official report on the benefits of NATO membership today paved the way for a Swedish candidacy, which can be completed in a few days, just like the one in Finland.

Having spent several decades outside of any military alliance, Helsinki and Stockholm are due to announce their NATO membership by next week.

The Finnish President and Prime Minister declared themselves on Thursday in favor of a membership “without delay” to the US-led alliance. Now they must formalize the country’s candidacy this Sunday after a board meeting.

The same day, the Swedish Social Democratic Party must decide on the candidacy of his country. Your support would remove the last major hurdle on the Stockholm side.

Without formulating a formal recommendation, a report drawn up by the government with all the parties in Parliament came out in favor of a Swedish candidacy. “Sweden’s membership in NATO (…) would have a deterrent effect”, concludes the 40-page document.

Although Moscow threatened Finland and Sweden with “consequences” in case of membership, the report considers an armed attack very unlikely, but he acknowledges that Russian “provocations” and “reprisals” “cannot be ruled out”.

“Our opinion is that we would not suffer a conventional military attack in response to a possible NATO candidacy“said Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde at a press conference.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, left, and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin during a meeting on possible NATO membership
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, left, and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin during a meeting on possible NATO membershipPaul Wennerholm – TT NEWS AGENCY

Although a mutual assistance clause to be a member of the European Union protects Sweden, the report concludes that, not being a member of NATO, the country currently has no clear “guarantee” of assistance in case of assault.

Before the war in Ukraine, the debate in Finland and Sweden over NATO membership was deadlocked. But everything changed with the Russian invasion. Both countries are now seeking better military protection.

Half of Swedes are in favor of membership, according to the latest polls. And two-thirds would be in favor of Finland joining as well. More than three-quarters of Finns want NATO protection.

Moscow yesterday threatened “military and technical” measures if Finland joined. The Russian Security Council, a body chaired by President Vladimir Putin, discussed the likely offers from Sweden and Finland and the “potential threats to Russia’s security arising therefrom”, according to the Kremlin spokesman , Dmitry Peskov.

Seeing the two hitherto non-aligned countries join NATO, and in particular Finland with its 1,300 kilometer border with Russia, would be a strategic and symbolic setback for Moscow, according to Western analysts.

As for Russian retaliation, “it’s almost certain that we will have hybrid attacks, like cyberattacks,” Robert Dalsja, a researcher at the Swedish Defense Research Institute (FOI), told AFP. “But they are busy with Ukraine… So I doubt very much that they come here to kill someone”.

Worried about the reaction of Russia, Finland and Sweden are asking for guarantees of protection during the months necessary before their formal entry into the Atlantic Alliance, such as the declaration of mutual assistance signed on Wednesday with the United Kingdom.

AFP and AP agencies

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