Erdogan’s NATO decision: Finland celebrates, Sweden hopes

ANKARA, Turkey (Caasimada Online) – President Tayyip Erdogan announced on Friday that Turkey’s parliament would commence the ratification of Finland’s accession to NATO.  

This move lifts the most significant obstacle to enlarging the Western defense alliance, particularly as conflict persists in Ukraine. 

However, Erdogan delayed approving Sweden’s bid.  

While speaking in Ankara with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Erdogan revealed that Helsinki had secured Turkey’s support by taking concrete measures to address Ankara’s concerns regarding counter-terrorism and defense exports. 

Background: NATO expansion

Last year, the three countries signed an agreement in Madrid outlining the steps required to address Turkey’s concerns over accession. 

However, Ankara has maintained that Sweden has not yet met these requirements.  

Erdogan had a conversation with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, during which he stated Turkey’s determination to continue discussions with Sweden, with progress contingent upon the concrete steps taken by the Scandinavian nation.  

All 30 NATO member parliaments must ratify their accession for a newcomer to join. Finland’s membership would signify the first enlargement of the trans-Atlantic pact since North Macedonia’s induction in 2020.

“We have decided to initiate the ratification of Finland’s accession process to NATO in our parliament,” Erdogan informed reporters following his meeting with Niinisto.  

He hoped the parliament would endorse Finland’s bid before the May 14 elections.

Niinisto welcomed this decision, describing it as “very important” for Finland, which shares an extensive and remote border with Russia.  

He also emphasized the significance of Sweden joining the Alliance. 

Sweden’s bid and the road ahead 

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom expressed hope that Sweden would gain acceptance into NATO before the Alliance’s meeting in Vilnius, slated for July.  

“Our partners support us, both in making sure that we can become members of NATO as soon as possible and in ensuring our security until such time as we become a full member,” he said, adding, “It is a question of when Sweden becomes a member, not if.”

In reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO last year. However, they encountered unexpected objections from Turkey, which became a member in 1952.  

Ankara claims that Stockholm shelters members of what Turkey considers terrorist organizations, particularly the Kurdish militant group PKK, an accusation Sweden denies.  

Turkey demands the extradition of several individuals it considers terrorists, but some of these applications have been rejected. 

Billstrom explained that the courts make decisions and that outcomes may be positive and negative from Turkey’s perspective.

Apart from Hungary, which has delayed formal steps to approve the two Nordic bids despite supporting them, Turkey is the only NATO member yet to greenlight Finland and Sweden’s membership.  

Ankara suspended talks in January after a far-right politician in Stockholm burned a copy of the Muslim holy book, the Quran.  

However, lower-level discussions resumed in Brussels last week. In January, amid strained relations with Sweden, Erdogan indicated that Turkey might endorse Helsinki before Stockholm.  

Washington and other NATO members hoped that both Nordic countries would join the Alliance during the NATO summit scheduled for July 11 in Vilnius. 

Implications for Turkey’s domestic politics 

Erdogan’s endorsement of Finnish membership comes nearly a year after his surprising threat to veto the bids and two months before Turkey’s most consequential election to date.  

Turkey’s parliament is expected to ratify Finland’s membership before it adjourns in mid-April, ahead of the May 14 parliamentary and presidential elections. 

Western diplomats and investors may welcome the anticipated approval of one of the two Nordic bidders. Blaise Antin, head of EM sovereign research at asset manager TCW in Los Angeles, said, “Investors would like to see a Turkish pivot back towards closer relations with its traditional Western allies.”  

He further elaborated, “Headlines about vetoing NATO enlargement or helping Russia evade sanctions are unnerving to Turkey’s traditional economic and investment partners in the United States and Europe.” 

US urges approval of Sweden’s bid

The United States expressed approval of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s announcement regarding the initiation of Finland’s NATO accession ratification.  

The US also encouraged Turkey to expedite the ratification of Sweden’s entry into the military alliance.  

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan stated, “Sweden and Finland are both strong, capable partners that share NATO’s values and will strengthen the Alliance and contribute to European security. The United States believes that both countries should become members of NATO as soon as possible.” 

As tensions in Ukraine continue to escalate, the approval of Finland’s NATO accession and the potential inclusion of Sweden in the Alliance highlights the growing importance of the trans-Atlantic defense pact. 

The coming months will be crucial for both Nordic countries as they strive to secure their positions within NATO and bolster European security.  

The United States, Turkey, and other NATO members will play pivotal roles in shaping the Alliance’s future and addressing the region’s ongoing challenges.