Turkey raises objections to Sweden, Finland joining NATO – The Denver Post
By JILL LAWLESS and JOSEPH WILSON
MADRID (AP) – Turkey on Tuesday agreed to lift its opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, a breakthrough in a dead end that clouded a leadership meeting in Madrid in the middle of Europe’s worst security crisis in decades triggered by the war in Ukraine.
After urgent talks at the top level, the Alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said “we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO”, it calls “a historic decision”.
Among its many shocking consequences, President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has led Sweden and Finland to abandon their long-standing non-aligned status and apply to join NATO as protection against an increasingly aggressive and unpredictable Russia – which shares a long border with Finland. According to the NATO treaty, an attack on an individual member would be considered an attack on all and would trigger a military response from the entire alliance.
But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had blocked the move and insisted that the Nordic couple change their attitude to Kurdish rebel groups that Turkey considers terrorists.
After weeks of diplomacy and hours of talks on Tuesday, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said that the leaders of the three countries had signed a joint agreement to break the chaos.
Turkey said it had “got what it wanted” including “full cooperation … in the fight against” rebel groups.
Stoltenberg said that the leaders of the alliance with 30 countries will issue a formal invitation to the two countries to join on Wednesday. The decision must be ratified by all individual nations, but he said he was “absolutely sure” that Finland and Sweden would become members, something that could happen within a few months.
Turkey hailed Tuesday’s agreement as a triumph and said the Nordic nations had agreed to crack down on groups that Ankara considers a threat to national security, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and its Syrian extension. It said it also agreed to “not impose embargo restrictions on the defense industry” against Turkey and to take “concrete measures to extradite terrorist criminals.”
Turkey has demanded that Finland and Sweden extradite wanted persons and lift arms restrictions imposed after Turkey’s military invasion of northeastern Syria in 2019.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde told reporters that “all parties showed an incredible willingness to get there and were constructive and we made it clear that we take these fears of terrorist attacks seriously.”
Turkey, in turn, agreed to “support at the Madrid Summit 2022 the invitation of Finland and Sweden to join NATO.”
Amid speculation about a US role in ending the stalemate, a senior administration official said Washington did not offer any concessions to Turkey to persuade the country to accept an agreement. But the official said the United States played a crucial role in bringing the two parties closer together, and President Joe Biden spoke with Erdogan on Tuesday morning on behalf of Sweden and Finland to help encourage talks.
The agreement came at the start of a crucial summit, dominated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which will set the course for the alliance for years to come. The summit began with a leadership dinner hosted by King Felipe VI of Spain at the 18th-century Royal Palace in Madrid.
At the top of the agenda at meetings on Wednesday and Thursday is to strengthen the defense against Russia and support Ukraine.
The Moscow invasion on February 24 shook European security and brought shelling of cities and bloody ground battles back to the continent. NATO, which had begun to focus on terrorism and other non-state threats, has once again been forced to confront a resilient Russia.
Biden said NATO was “as united and galvanized as I think we have ever been.”
A Russian missile attack on Monday against a shopping mall in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk was a grim reminder of the horrors of war. Some saw the time, when the group of seven leaders met in Germany and just before the NATO summit, as a message from Moscow.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who will speak to NATO leaders via video on Wednesday, called the attack on the mall a “terrorist” act.
Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko traveled to Madrid to urge the alliance to provide his country with “what it takes” to stop the war.
“Wake up, guys. This is happening now. You will be next, this will knock on your door in just a moment,” Klitschko told reporters at the venue.
Stoltenberg said the meeting would outline a plan for the alliance “in a more dangerous and unpredictable world” – and that meant “we need to invest more in our defense”, Stoltenberg said. Only nine of NATO’s 30 members meet the organization’s target of spending 2% of its gross domestic product on defense. Spain, which is hosting the summit, spends only half.
Stoltenberg said on Monday that NATO allies will agree at the summit to increase the strength of the alliance’s rapid reaction force almost eightfold, from 40,000 to 300,000 soldiers. The troops will be based in their home countries, but dedicated to specific countries on NATO’s eastern flank, where the alliance plans to build up stockpiles of equipment and ammunition.
Beneath the surface, there are tensions within NATO over how the war will end and what, if any, concessions Ukraine should make to end the fighting.
There are also differences in how hard it is to take China into NATO’s new strategic concept – its set of priorities and goals once a decade. The latest document, published in 2010, did not mention China at all.
The new concept is expected to describe NATO’s approach to issues from cyber security to climate change – and China’s growing economic and military reach, and the growing importance and power of the Indo – Pacific region. For the first time, the leaders of Japan, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand will be guests at the summit.
Some European members are wary of the US hard line against Beijing and do not want China as an opponent.
In the strategic concept, NATO will declare Russia its number one threat.
Russia’s state space agency, Roscosmos, marked the start of the summit by releasing satellite images and coordinates of the Madrid conference hall where it is being held, along with images from the White House, the Pentagon and government headquarters in London, Paris and Berlin.
The agency said NATO would declare Russia an enemy at the summit, adding that it published exact coordinates “for security reasons”.
Associated Press Writers Aritz Parra, Ciaran Giles, Sylvie Corbet and Zeke Miller in Madrid and Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul contributed.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine