NATO: Why Turkey could stop Finland and Sweden joining military alliance

Cihat Yayci suggests Turkey won't support Nordic NATO membership

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Last weekend the Governments of Finland and Sweden announced that they would both be making an application to become members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). To pass the process, all existing 30 members of the alliance need to offer their support, but Turkey has indicated it will oppose any requests made from the two Nordic countries.

What concerns does Turkey have?

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has voiced his disapproval at what he views as a willingness from both nations to host Kurdish militants.

On Monday, Mr Erdogan told a news conference: “Neither of these countries have a clear, open attitude towards terrorist organisation. How can we trust them?”

He also described Sweden as a “hatchery” for terrorist organisations.

Ankara has accused both Finland and Sweden of harbouring members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The group is seen by Turkey’s Government as a terrorist organisation and followers of Fethullah Gulen – the de-facto leader of the Gulen movement.

Mr Gulen was blamed by Mr Erdogan’s administration for orchestrating an unsuccessful coup attempt in 2016.

In order to join NATO, all of its members must unanimously agree to the ascension of a new country.

Finland and Sweden will require support from Turkey to be accepted into the military pact.

However, Mr Erdogan said delegations from both countries should not bother travelling to Turkey to try and change his mind.

His Government also pledged to block applications from countries that have imposed sanctions on it.

Following Turkey’s incursion into Syria, in 2019, both Finland and Sweden hit Ankara with an arms embargo.

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In response Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said he was surprised by Turkey’s stance, but added that his Government was not interested in “bargaining” with Mr Erdogan.

Historically, the two Nordic neighbours have adopted stances of neutrality in wartime situations, though both have stated the invasion of Ukraine has changed their outlook.

The decisions of both Finland and Sweden to apply for NATO membership has drawn criticism from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin described the development as a problem for the Kremlin, while Moscow has warned that there could be no more talk of a “nuclear-free” Baltic.

Last Sunday, Finland formally announced it would apply to join NATO after its President Sauli Niinisto urged the Finnish Government to back plans “without delay”.

Sweden’s governing Social Democrats said they backed joining the military alliance, enabling the country to apply.

NATO followed up by beginning one of its largest exercises in the Baltic region, involving some 15,000 troops.

The alliance has nicknamed the operation “Hedgehog” with 10 countries, including Finland and Sweden, taking part in the drills.

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