The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden said it is working to clarify Turkey’s position on the desire of Finland and Sweden to apply for NATO membership. Earlier in the day, White House spokeswoman Jen Saki stated that the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey couldn’t support Sweden’s and Finland’s plans to join the NATO pact as the Scandinavian countries are “home to many terrorist organizations”.
Yesterday, U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson and Finnish President Sauli Ninisto. The conversation lasted a little over half an hour, the White House announced.
The Finnish president wrote on Twitter that he had outlined to Biden the next steps Finland will take to join NATO, adding that his country is deeply grateful to the United States for its support. The White House said that the three leaders expressed their support for Ukraine during the conversation. Ukraine has been trying to join NATO and the European Union for years. Biden also told the two leaders that he supports NATO’s open-door policy and the right of the two northern European nations to decide for themselves what their future will be and what their foreign and security policies and decisions will be.
However, Turkey threatened to block Finland and Sweden from joining the organization. Unanimous support from all 30 member states is required for membership in NATO. So far, most members of the alliance, including the United States and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, have said they are ready to welcome Finland and Sweden with open arms.
Faced with the “grey zone” where Finland and Sweden would have found themselves – or will find themselves – between the moment of the request for NATO membership and their actual entry, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has signed two agreements with the two countries two days ago to offer them security guarantees from a nuclear country, such as Great Britain.
Talks with Turkey
The foreign ministers said that Sweden and Finland plan to hold talks with Turkey in Berlin today. Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde will have the opportunity to discuss the issue with Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu at a planned informal meeting of NATO ministers, to which Sweden and Finland have been invited, she told Reuters. At a press conference in Helsinki at the same time, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto announced his intention to continue talks with Turkish counterpart Cavusoglu. Haavisto called for patience and a step-by-step approach to Turkey’s position, Reuters reported.
The Turkish government has not yet taken a formal position on the matter, and, on the other hand, Helsinki and Stockholm have not formalized their request. On Thursday, the Finnish president and prime minister, Sauli Niisto and Sanna Marin expressed the will that their country could join “without delay”.
One hypothesis is that Erdogan is asking Sweden and Finland to take a clear position against those who support the Kurdish separatists of the PKK in Turkey and those of the YPG in Syria in exchange for the green light to join.
Turkish terrorism charges
The Kurdish militants of the PKK in Turkey and the Ypg in Syria have always been well received in Stockholm, along with the followers of Fethullah Gulen, the preacher accused of the failed 2016 coup.
While Ankara has always had a good relationship with Finland, in the past, there had been strong friction with Sweden for its support for the Syrian Kurds of the YPG, which the United States has always supported. There are many Kurds in Sweden and also many parliamentarians of Kurdish origin.
Since becoming a member of NATO 70 years ago, Ankara has always approved every enlargement. But, Erdogan now says he regretted having accepted the entry of Greece, which today uses its presence in the Alliance against Ankara. “Today, we don’t want to repeat the same mistake,” he says.
Relations with Russia
Finland and Sweden’s willingness to join the Atlantic Alliance comes after decades of neutrality.
In 1939 Finland was invaded by the then Soviet Union, but strong resistance managed to prevent its occupation – but not the amputation of 10 per cent of the territory. In 1948 Finland signed a Treaty of friendship with the USSR, pledging never to allow anti-Soviet military operations through its territory. Helsinki joined the European Union in 1995, together with Sweden, and is part of the single currency. It is also one of the ten members of the Joint Expeditionary Force, a British-led alliance that includes the three Scandinavians, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands and the three Baltics, and is a sort of NATO sub-alliance.
The move to join NATO has already unleashed the wrath of the Kremlin, which has threatened to implement political and military reactions in the event of an effective entrance of Helsinki and Stockholm.
Yesterday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that these consequences are “certain” and that their severity will depend on how close the NATO bases in Finland are to the Russian border. From tomorrow, the supplier Rao Nordic Oy, 100% owned by the Russian company InterRao, will suspend deliveries of electricity to Finland due to unpaid bills. Moscow supplies 10% of Finnish electricity needs.
A report published by the Swedish government on what could happen after their request for access to the Atlantic Alliance is formalized predicts that Moscow could react with “hybrid” attacks – from cyber attacks to violations of Swedish airspace or sea. According to the report, “strategic signals” with nuclear weapons are also possible.
Sweden’s foreign minister Ann Linde told parliamentarians, “an armed attack on Sweden by Russia cannot be ruled out.