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Turkey lifts objection to Finland, Sweden joining NATO

Jens Stoltenberg speaks at the Nordic Council Session 2010. (Magnus Fröderberg/Nordic Co-operation/Released)

Turkey will support Finland and Sweden’s bids to join NATO after weeks of blocking their applications, the leader of the alliance announced.

Leaders from the three nations met in Madrid on Tuesday to discuss how to address Ankara’s concerns ahead of NATO’s annual summit, where alliance members will reckon with threats, including how to best defend NATO amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“I’m pleased to announce that we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO,” NATO leader Jens Stoltenberg said at a press conference. “In NATO, we are always shown that whatever our differences, we can always sit down, find common ground, and resolve issues.”

President Joe Biden, who is in Madrid for the NATO summit, is expected to meet with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor, told reporters on Tuesday.

In May, Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO after decades of neutrality because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Expanding the alliance requires the approval of all members; Turkey initially objected, saying that Sweden supported the PKK, a Kurdish terrorist group.

NATO leaders will formally invite Finland and Sweden to join the alliance at the summit on Wednesday, though the decision will need to be ratified by the legislative branches of each member.

Stoltenberg would not say when he believed Finland and Sweden might formally join the alliance, but noted that it’s been the “quickest-ever process so far” from application to invitation.

At their Tuesday meeting, leaders from Turkey, Finland, and Sweden signed a memorandum to address Ankara’s concerns; it includes plans to boost cooperation on counterterrorism among the three countries. Finland and Sweden also agreed to crack down on PKK activities, update domestic legislation to better address terrorism, and work with Turkey on extradition.

Stoltenberg said he is confident all three nations will stand by the commitments made in the memorandum.

Last month, the incoming NATO supreme allied commander said that both Finland and Sweden will contribute militarily to NATO “from day one.” Finland’s well-trained and well-equipped military is “absolutely expert” in defending its 830-mile border with Russia, Gen. Christopher Cavoli told Congress. The Finnish military already uses American-made F/A-18 fighter jets, and announced in February that it would buy 64 F-35 jets, so equipment from both nation’s militaries will be easily interoperable.

Though Sweden has a smaller military, it is spending heavily on defense and will boost its military budget by more than $300 million this year. Cavoli said the Swedish military will be of particular use in deterring Russia at sea.


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