Russia’s war in Ukraine has given NATO a formal membership bid from Finland and Sweden for reshaping European defenses, but the Nordic countries must first overcome Turkey’s opposition.
“This is a good day at a crucial moment for our security,” Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance’s secretary general, told reporters. “This is a historic moment that we should embrace.”
Membership requires a consensus among members of the coalition, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan indicated on Monday that he would not allow the Nordic countries to join, accusing their government of supporting Kurdish militants and treating them as terrorists.
For the first step, all 30 NATO ambassadors must agree to proceed with the application, after which Sweden and Finland may begin negotiations to join the alliance. Diplomats are expected to hold a rally after Wednesday, according to people familiar with the matter.
Turkey is in talks with Sweden and Finland, and NATO members say they are confident Turkey can overcome its concerns.
Bringing Sweden and Finland into NATO would strengthen the Northeast Alliance’s defenses, and would be the biggest change in Europe’s security landscape since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Traditionally non-aligned countries boast of a strong navy and growing defense budget, as well as NATO-standard military forces, including major air power.
Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine pushed Finland into the fold of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and dragged neighboring Sweden. The attack overnight shifted popular opinion in both countries, prompting policymakers to speed up the process, and even Russia has warned the pair of possible consequences.
Finnish President Sauli Ninistটো, who is visiting Washington, D.C., with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson on Thursday, said he was “optimistic” that Turkey’s position could be “guided by negotiations.”
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