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Turkish president says he opposes letting Finland, Sweden join NATO

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech to members of parliament on Oct. 23, 2018, in Ankara, Turkey. Turkey has stockpiled crucial spare parts for weapons, anticipating sanctions from the U.S. (Depo Photos/Zuma Press/TNS)
May 16, 2022

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey voiced his opposition to Finland and Sweden joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on Friday, calling the move “not favorable” and suggesting he may veto attempts to admit the two nations.

“We are following developments concerning Sweden and Finland, but we are not of a favorable opinion,” Erdogan told reporters, according to The Associated Press.

Erdogan justified his disapproval by highlighting Sweden and its neighboring countries’ apparent support for Kurdish militants considered by Turkey to be terrorists.  

The president also recalled when Turkey agreed to readmit Greece to NATO’s military wing, a move he called a “mistake” that allowed Greece “to take an attitude against Turkey.”

On Friday, the White House released a statement expressing President Joe Biden’s support for the two countries joining NATO. The release followed a call between Biden, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden and President Sauli Niinistö of Finland in which the three world leaders discussed “the close defense and security cooperation between our countries as well as our respective efforts aimed at strengthening Transatlantic security.”

“President Biden underscored his support for NATO’s Open Door policy and for the right of Finland and Sweden to decide their own future, foreign policy, and security arrangements.  The leaders also discussed the close partnership among our countries across a range of global issues, based on our common values and interests,” the statement read. “They reiterated their shared commitment to continued coordination in support of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people affected by the war.”

Niinistö’s office said he, Biden and Andersson “shared a deep concern over Russia’s war on Ukraine.”

“President Niinistö went through Finland’s next steps toward NATO membership. President Niinistö told (Biden) that Finland deeply appreciates all the necessary support from the U.S.,” his office said in a statement.

While President Erdogan has no explicitly said he would veto Finland and Sweden’s attempts to join NATO, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that U.S. officials are “working to clarify Turkey’s position” on the matter and suggested there is “broad support” for admitting the two nations.

Last week, Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council Dmitry Medvedev warned that NATO’s continued support of Ukraine against Russian forces raises the risk of the conflict “turning into a full-fledged nuclear war.”

“The pumping of Ukraine by NATO countries with weapons, the training of its troops to use Western equipment, the dispatch of mercenaries and the conduct of exercises by the countries of the Alliance near our borders increase the likelihood of a direct and open conflict between NATO and Russia instead of their ‘war by proxy,’” Medvedev said.

“Such a conflict always has the risk of turning into a full-fledged nuclear war. This will be a catastrophic scenario for everyone. That’s all. Therefore, do not lie to yourself and others. You just need to think about the possible consequences of your actions. And do not choke on your own saliva in the paroxysms of Russophobia!”