Finland and Sweden are taking a big step towards NATO membership

The 30 NATO allies on Tuesday signed the accession protocols of Sweden and Finland, sending bids for the two nations to join the alliance capitals for legislative approvals and possible political problems in Turkey.

The measure further increases Russia’s strategic isolation following its invasion of neighboring Ukraine in February and the military struggles that have taken place since then.

“This is truly a historic moment for Finland, for Sweden and for NATO,” said Alliance Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

The 30 ambassadors and permanent representatives formally approved the decisions of last week’s NATO summit when the alliance made the historic decision to invite Russia’s neighbor Finland and Scandinavian partner Sweden to join the military club. .

Turkey could still pose problems

Getting parliamentary approval from the new members in Turkey, however, could still be a problem even though Sweden, Finland and Turkey reached a memorandum of understanding at the recent Madrid summit.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that Ankara could block the process if the two countries do not accept Turkey’s demands for the extradition of people it considers suspected of terrorism. People wanted in Turkey have links to illegal Kurdish groups or the network of an exiled cleric accused of a failed coup in 2016 in Turkey.

He said the Turkish parliament could refuse to ratify the agreement. It is a powerful threat, as NATO membership must be formally approved by the 30 member states, which gives everyone a right to blockade.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky are seen on Monday at a joint press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has spurred Sweden, along with Finland, to seek membership in the NATO military alliance after decades of neutrality. (Alexey Furman / Getty Images)

Stoltenberg said he did not expect any change of opinion. “There were security issues that needed to be addressed. And we did what we always do in NATO. We found common ground.”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has given more urgency to the process. It will consolidate the two nations into the Western military alliance and give more influence to NATO, especially in the face of Moscow’s military threat.

“We will be even stronger and our people will be even safer as we face the biggest security crisis in decades,” Stoltenberg said.

There is no list of extradition targets, say Sweden and Finland

At a press conference, the foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland were asked if the memorandum specified the people who should be extradited to Turkey. Both ministers said this list was not part of the agreement.

“We will fully honor the memorandum. Of course, there are no lists or anything like that in the memorandum, but what we will do is have better cooperation when it comes to terrorists,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto was equally adamant.

“Everything that was agreed in Madrid is in the document. There are no documents hidden behind it or any agreement behind it,” Haavisto said.

Each alliance nation has different legislative challenges and procedures to deal with, and the two could take a few more months to become official members.

The German parliament will ratify membership bids on Friday, according to the Free Democrats coalition party. Other parliaments could only reach the approval process after the long summer break.

“I expect a speedy ratification process,” Haavisto said.

Meanwhile, the protocols approved on Tuesday are already deepening both nations in NATO. As close partners, they already attended some meetings that involved issues that affected them immediately. As official guests, they may attend all meetings of the ambassadors even if they do not yet have the right to vote.

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