NATO Opens Door for Sweden and Finland

Joseph Vernet: Construction of a Large Road // Public domain

At the NATO summit in Madrid, the decision was finally made to agree to the accession of new members: Sweden and Finland. In recent weeks, the presidents of Croatia, Zoran Milanović, and Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have emerged as the biggest opponents of expanding the alliance to include the Nordic countries.

Erdoğan’s hardline policy toward Nordic countries seeking NATO membership gave no indication that the conflicting parties would reach an agreement before the North Atlantic Alliance summit in Madrid. Ankara accused Sweden of supporting the activities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, an organization considered terrorist in Turkey. The most important issue for Ankara was for Sweden and Finland to lift the embargo imposed on Turkey on the purchase of certain weapons, and to cut off or hand over to Turkey individuals associated with Kurdish organizations.

With this in mind, there have been many attempts in recent months to reach an agreement on both sides of the dispute. Sweden, Finland and Turkey reached a consensus after a month of negotiations, which resulted in the signing of a memorandum on June 28, 2022.

The office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a press release that the agreement reached with Helsinki and Stockholm includes expanding cooperation in the weapons industry and removing mutual restrictions, exchanging intelligence to combat terrorism, and the candidate countries taking concrete steps to extradite individuals accused of terrorist activities in Turkey. In fact, each side is a winner, Turkey through diplomacy has obtained a favorable outcome assuming that most of its demands will be met. On the other hand, the door leading to membership in the North Atlantic Alliance has opened for Sweden and Finland.

The other opponent of the Nordic countries’ accession to the alliance was Croatian President Zoran Milanović, who initially vetoed the candidacy of the two countries in order to draw public attention to the problems faced by the Croatian minority in Bosnia-Herzegovina. However, Milanović is alone on this issue both internationally and in his own country, where the currently ruling center-right Croatian Democratic Community is not considering blocking Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO membership.

For the North Atlantic Alliance, the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO will mean a significant strengthening. The memorandum signed in Madrid is a positive end to Sweden and Finland’s month-long battle with Turkey. Now the road ahead for the Nordic countries toward NATO membership is likely to involve waiting months for the two countries’ accession to be officially sealed. First, official confirmation of their acceptance is needed. Then the two countries will be recognized as candidates and accession talks will begin.

Once these are completed, Finland and Sweden will be able to participate in the work of the alliance. Finally, the period of ratification by the parliaments of member states of the accession of new members will begin. The final stage will be for the candidate countries to forward the instrument of ratification to Washington. In the best-case scenario, both Finland and Sweden will become members of the alliance at the end of 2022, assuming NATO follows the fast-track accession procedure.

For the Swedish Social Democrats, led by Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, the signing of the memorandum with Turkey and the unblocking of the road to NATO is an excellent opportunity to increase support in the country. Elections in Sweden are already in September, the minority government has so far managed the country very well, which translates into quite high support in the polls around 30-35%, nevertheless this result can always be improved.

Magdalena Andersson has pursued a consistent policy toward Belarus and Russia from the beginning, openly accusing both regimes of disrupting Eastern Europe. She has also not been afraid to criticize the European Union for its lack of decisive action on the issue. Continued provocations by the Russian navy in the Gotland Island region, violations of Swedish airspace and hybrid warfare on the borders of Poland and Lithuania have prompted the Swedes to talk more and more seriously about NATO membership. Therefore, the current public support for the accession project is not surprising.

In recent years, Sweden and Finland have so deepened their cooperation with NATO that their membership appears to be something inevitable. However, despite the opening of the road to accession, both Sweden and Finland must keep a close eye on Turkey’s further diplomatic moves. The memorandum itself will not be a 100 percent guarantee of support for their entry into the structures anytime soon if Istanbul’s demands are not met.

Written by Mateusz Gibała – second-year student of political science at Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw, and a trainee at the Gabriel Szerszeniewicz Institute of Eastern Law. On a daily basis, he is passionate about the history of Poland and Europe, Scandinavian countries and the history of Polish Himalayanism.

The article was originally published in Polish at:

Translated by Natalia Banaś

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