Turkey defiant as Sweden signs NATO bid
Sweden signed a formal request to join NATO on May 17, despite Turkey’s defiant position that it will not approve Sweden’s and Finland’s applications citing that the two neighboring countries “harbor terrorists.”
The moves by the two Nordic countries, ending Sweden’s more than 200 years of military nonalignment and Finland’s nonalignment after World War II, have also provoked the ire of the Kremlin.
Any membership bid to NATO must be unanimously approved by NATO’s 30 members, and Turkey is openly opposed to the enlargement, accusing the two countries of failing to take a clear stance against terrorism.
“We will not say ‘yes’ to those [countries] who apply sanctions to Turkey to join security organization NATO,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said late May 16.
Sweden has suspended any arms sales to Turkey since 2019 over Ankara’s military operation in neighboring Syria.
Referring to the Swedish and Finnish delegations’ intentions to meet with Turkish officials, Erdoğan said: “They say they will come to Turkey on Monday. Will they come to persuade us? Excuse us, but they shouldn’t bother.”
Turkey accuses Sweden and Finland of harboring terror groups, including the PKK, blacklisted by Ankara, the European Union and the United States.
“Neither of the countries have a clear stance against terror organizations,” Erdoğan said.
Sweden and Finland have failed to respond positively to Turkey’s 33 extradition requests over the past five years, Justice Ministry sources said.
Turkey wanted the extradition of individuals who were accused of being affiliated with the PKK or FETÖ.
In Stockholm, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde signed the formal request to join the Alliance, which she said would be sent to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
“It feels like we have taken a decision that is the best for Sweden,” she said while signing the document.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on May 16 that Sweden and Finland joining NATO would be no threat to Russia but warned the Western alliance that moving troops or weapons into the Nordic neighbors would provoke a “response.”
The Russian leader’s more moderate reaction marked contrast with comments earlier on May 16 from Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who called the expansion a “grave mistake with far-reaching consequences.”
Swedish Prime Minister Andersson acknowledged Sweden would be “vulnerable” in the interim period before its application is ratified.
Stockholm has received security assurances from several key partners, including the United States, Britain, Germany, France and the Nordic countries, she added.
Sweden’s supreme commander of the Armed Forces, Micael Byden, said the risk of a Russian military attack was “pretty low” but that the country could expect to see “disinformation campaigns, cyberattacks, sabotage, [and] subversion.”