On Tuesday, amid the ongoing North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit in Madrid, Turkey agreed to lift its veto on Sweden and Finland’s bid to join the 30-nation military alliance. The three countries subsequently signed an agreement that paved the way for the two Nordic countries to become a part of the organisation. This led to speculations that the United States agreed to provide concessions to Turkey in return for its support, although it was later refuted by an official from Washington.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has prompted Sweden and Finland to forgo their long-standing non-aligned status to join NATO. So far, Turkey had blocked the move, alleging that the countries have provided support to Kurdish militants. It wanted the countries to change their stance on the issue as Ankara considers the rebel groups as terrorists.
The three countries reached an agreement just four hours after the summit in Madrid commenced. The urgent top-level talks between the three leaders along with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg went on for nearly two hours before the agreement was announced.
Subsequently, Stoltenberg indicated in a Twitter post, “We now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO.” He also thanked the presidents of Turkey and Finland, and the Swedish Prime Minister, for their “constructive spirit” that made this “historic decision” possible.
“One of the most important messages from President Putin… was that he was against any further NATO enlargement,” said Stoltenberg on Tuesday. “He wanted less NATO. Now President Putin is getting more NATO on his borders,” he added.
“Our foreign ministers signed a trilateral memorandum which confirms that Turkey will… support the invitation of Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO,” said Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, in a statement. He added that the steps for Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO will be agreed upon in the next two days but the decision is “now imminent”.
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson also took to Twitter, to announce the breakthrough. “Key memorandum just reached between Sweden, Finland and Türkyie. Paves way for Swedish accession to NATO,” said Andersson in a tweet.
In a phone interview, she also said, “It’s good for Sweden and Finland’s security but in equal measure, it is good for NATO as we would contribute to the common security of the alliance.” Andersson detailed how both the countries were able to “explain their work” against terrorism, and indicated that Helsinki and Stockholm have tightened legislation to combat this issue.
Meanwhile, the office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan released a statement on June 28, stating, “Turkey has made significant gains in the fight against terrorist organisations…Turkey got what it wanted.” The statement indicated that Sweden and Finland have agreed to “cooperate fully” with Ankara in its fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and other Kurdish militant groups. The PKK is designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and most of its Western allies. The group has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state for decades .
According to the statement, Helsinki and Stockholm have also agreed to lift their embargoes on weapon deliveries into Turkey, which were placed in response to its 2019 military incursion into Syria. The two countries will also, reportedly, place a ban on “fundraising and recruitment activities” for the Kurdish militants, and prevent “terrorist propaganda” against Ankara.
A formal invitation to both the Nordic countries will be extended on Wednesday, after all the member nations of NATO have ratified this decision, however, the membership will still take several months.
Russian space agency Roscosmos, reportedly, marked the opening of this year’s NATO Summit by releasing satellite images and coordinates of the Madrid conference hall where the event is currently being held.
This was in addition to the images and coordinates of the White House, the Pentagon and key government headquarters in London, Paris and Berlin. The agency indicated that this was done “just in case”, and in response to NATO’s decision to declare Russia an enemy at this summit.
On the other hand, Washington clarified that there were no US concessions to Turkey for the completion deal. Furthermore, a US official told reporters that Turkey never leveraged its request for F-16 fighter jets to obstruct the agreement, which would allow Finland and Sweden to begin the process of joining the alliance.
“There’s nothing the United States offered in direct connection with this,” said the US official. “Nothing about Turkish requests to the United States was part of this agreement. This is an agreement strictly among the three countries – Turkey, Finland, (and) Sweden. The United States is not a part of it,” they said.
Although US President Joe Biden did call the President of Turkey ahead of the summit, urging him to make use of this conference to finalise negotiations for an agreement. Additionally, the two presidents are expected to meet on Wednesday, according to national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
The summit is being held in the backdrop of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has also led to speculations that NATO member countries may announce scaling up the number of troops on high alert to 300,000, reportedly, a sevenfold increase. “The alliance is strengthening its posture, is dealing with the threats and strengthening our posture against the threats from the east, and challenges from the south.” said President Biden, shortly after his arrival in Madrid. He added, “NATO is focused on all directions and domains land, air and sea.”