Turkey supports Sweden's NATO bid, boosting the alliance
Turkey agrees to support Sweden's NATO bid amid tensions with Russia.
Turkey has agreed to support Sweden's bid to join NATO, marking a significant breakthrough for the military alliance. The decision comes as NATO seeks to strengthen its defenses in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Turkey will now ask its parliament to advance Sweden's membership in NATO as soon as possible. This reversal comes after months of negotiations and on the eve of a crucial NATO summit where leaders, including President Joe Biden, aim to demonstrate a united front. The enlargement of NATO to include Sweden is a significant development in European security following Russia's aggression in Ukraine. It has led to increased defense spending in Germany and plans to reinstate conscription in France.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg described Sweden's accession to NATO as a historic step that benefits the security of all allies. The exact timeline for Sweden's membership has not been disclosed, but Stoltenberg emphasized the commitment to moving forward. Earlier in the day, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had made a demand for Sweden's NATO membership in exchange for the European Union opening its doors to Turkey. However, this was clarified as separate processes by Brussels. After closed-door discussions, a solution to the impasse was reached. Erdogan met with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and European Council President Charles Michel, resulting in assurances on key demands from Turkey.
According to a Turkish official, these assurances include Stockholm's approach to Kurdish separatists operating in its territory, lifting defense-related sanctions, and expediting membership negotiations with the EU. The agreement between Turkey and Sweden builds upon the Madrid deal from last year and establishes a new bilateral security compact. Hungary, the only other NATO member yet to approve Sweden's bid, is also expected to follow suit. President Biden welcomed the agreement and expressed his support for swift ratification.
The decision to support Sweden's NATO bid follows a year of stalled progress and contentious rhetoric between Turkey and Sweden. Ankara has repeatedly accused Stockholm of not doing enough to combat Kurdish groups it deems as terrorists. The breakthrough came after diplomatic efforts, including Kristersson's visit to Washington and meetings between Swedish and Turkish officials at NATO headquarters. While it is unclear to what extent Biden's comments about Turkey's purchase of American F-16 fighter jets influenced Erdogan's decision, there has been pressure from a bipartisan group of senators to link F-16 sales to Turkey's ratification of Sweden's membership.
Sweden's accession to NATO will have significant implications for the alliance. It will strengthen NATO's control of the Baltic Sea and give the alliance an advantage in the Arctic region, both of which are strategic gateways for Russia. With seven out of eight Arctic nations belonging to NATO, Sweden's inclusion will simplify defense planning and enhance NATO's ability to provide military support to the Baltic nations. The invasion of Ukraine in early 2022 led to a shift in public opinion in Finland and Sweden, with increased support for NATO membership. This decision sets the stage for further political decisions during the NATO summit and raises hopes for Ukraine's eventual membership in the alliance.