Ukraine News: Turkey agreed to the entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO

Credit…Bernat Armange/Associated Press

MADRID. NATO leaders will formally invite Finland and Sweden to join the alliance on Wednesday after Turkey lifted its veto on their membership, the NATO Secretary General said Tuesday night, clearing the way for what will be one of the alliance’s most significant expansions in decades.

The historic deal that followed Turkey’s signing of a memorandum with the two Scandinavian countries highlighted how the war in Ukraine backfired on President Vladimir Putin, undermining Russia’s efforts to weaken NATO and pushing Sweden and Finland, which have remained neutral and non-aligned for decades. , into the arms of the alliance.

After weeks of talks culminating in a hours-long meeting in Madrid, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to lift the Swedish and Finnish membership block in exchange for a series of actions and promises that they would act against terrorism and terrorist organizations.

“As NATO allies, Finland and Sweden commit to fully support Turkey in the fight against threats to its national security,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, providing some details of the agreement. “This includes further amending their domestic laws, curbing the activities of the PKK, and reaching an extradition agreement with Turkey,” he added, referring to the PKK, which is seeking an independent Kurdish state in territory partly within the borders. Turkey.

mr. Erdogan has blocked Scandinavian NATO bids over concerns over Sweden’s longstanding support for the PKK, which has been targeting non-military targets and killing civilians in Turkey, is outlawed in that country and designated a terrorist organization by the US and the European Union. organization.

But the memorandum does not specify the extradition of any of the 45 people or so. They wanted to send Erdogan to Turkey to stand trial on charges of terrorism. Sweden has already passed tougher anti-terrorism legislation that comes into effect on 1 July.

Both Finland and Sweden were militarily out of the alliance for years, but decided to apply to join the alliance after Russia invaded Ukraine in February. When Russia attacked a neighbor, both countries felt vulnerable, although Sweden, with a long tradition of neutrality, was more hesitant.

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin warned both countries against joining NATO, but his threats proved counterproductive.

The two countries bring geostrategic advantages to the alliance. Finland shares an 830-mile border with Russia and has a well-equipped, modern army; Sweden can control the entrance to the Baltic Sea, which will greatly help NATO in planning the defense of the most vulnerable countries in Eastern Europe.

The latest push to resolve the dispute began early Tuesday morning when President Biden called Mr. Trump. Erdogan urged him to “seize the moment” on the eve of the summit to allow further discussion of other topics, according to a senior administration official familiar with the discussion.

The official, who requested anonymity to discuss private discussions, said the president relayed the gist of his conversation with Mr. Trump. Erdogan to the leaders of Finland and Sweden. And after hours of negotiations later that night, the leaders of the two Nordic countries consulted Mr. J. Biden once more before announcing an agreement with Turkey.

The US official said the deal between Turkey and the two Scandinavian countries involved a number of compromises on both sides, including a statement by Turkey welcoming Finland and Sweden’s bid, and issues related to Turkey’s arms embargo and Turkey’s confidence that Finland and Sweden offered safe haven to groups they considered terrorists.

US officials downplayed Mr. Biden’s role in the talks for days, saying he would not mediate between other countries and insisting that Turkey, Finland and Sweden should work out their differences.

After the deal was announced Tuesday night, senior leadership officially acknowledged that it would be more diplomatic to publicly minimize Mr. Trump’s actions. Biden involvement. The official said that prevented Turkey from getting concessions from the United States for agreeing to lift the veto, which could complicate the discussion.

The next steps for Finland and Sweden are clear: On Wednesday, NATO will vote to accept their applications. There will also be a rapid study of their defenses and needs. But the talks are expected to be routine as both countries are NATO partners and have been training alongside NATO allies.

The more difficult last step requires the legislatures of all 30 current members to vote to amend NATO’s founding treaty to admit new members. In the past, this has taken up to a year, but it is expected to happen much faster in the Nordic countries.

The US Senate is already pushing for a hearing on the application, and Mr. Biden has been a strong supporter of the new members.

Joanna Lemola provided a report from Helsinki, Finland.