We were told to expect a decision “within days” as to Finland applying for membership in NATO, triggering a threatening response from the Kremlin. That estimate proved to be true. This morning, the President and Prime Minister of Finland held a joint news conference where they announced that Finland’s formal application to join the alliance will be submitted this week following a vote in Parliament that is being described as “a formality.” But formally applying is not the same as being formally accepted. While NATO leadership initially announced that Finland’s application would be accepted and approved “quickly,” some analysts are now speculating that it could take as much as a year, if it happens at all.
The reason for that, as we discussed here this weekend, is that Turkey does not view the idea of Finland or Sweden joining NATO “favorably.” In an effort to resolve this potential impasse, the foreign ministers of Tukey, Finland, and Sweden have agreed to meet for talks in Germany this week. But the early comments from the Turkish Foreign Minister don’t sound very positive, describing Finland’s recent actions regarding the Kurds as “unacceptable and outrageous.” (Yahoo News)
Foreign ministers from Finland, Sweden and Turkey will hold clear the air talks in Berlin on Saturday to resolve disagreements over Finnish and Swedish plans to join NATO, as the alliance meets against the backdrop of the Ukraine war.
The Nordic states are gearing up to apply for membership of the 30-strong transatlantic alliance in response to what they see as a fundamentally altered security situation due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. That has drawn threats of retaliation from Moscow and objections from NATO member Turkey.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters as he arrived in Berlin that it was “unacceptable and outrageous” that prospective new NATO members gave support to the PKK Kurdish militant group, potentially complicating the alliance’s enlargement.
This is a convenient excuse for Recep Tayyip Erdogan to fall back on. You really didn’t hear a peep coming out of Turkey about Finland before the NATO question came up. But Erdogan has effectively been at war with the Kurds for many years now. This put him at odds with the United States and most of Europe since the Kurds had been instrumental in helping us in Iraq and Syria.
It’s still hard not to suspect that Turkey is only using the Kurds for cover at this point, however. After all, accusing Findland of providing help to the PKK sounds a lot better than admitting that you’re opposing their membership because you don’t want to anger your good friend Vladimir Putin. Erdogan is without a doubt Putin’s closest ally inside of the NATO alliance and the two have likely been on the phone on a weekly basis since the beginning of the invasion. When the talk of Finland and Sweden applying to join became serious, I would guess that Putin let Erdogan know that he needed to break that effort up or suffer the wrath of Russia.
It’s being reported that American Secretary of State Antony Blinken is also involved in this week’s talks. (And since he’s been overseeing the Iran deal negotiations, what could possibly go wrong, right?) If he can manage to bring the two sides closer together and Finland can put something on the table to sway Turkey, perhaps this can be resolved. But if not, I’ve already said that it’s time to push Turkey out of NATO. It would be time-consuming and complicated, but it could be done.
If the entire situation becomes bogged down, the parties involved in these talks have a disturbing backup plan they will also discuss. They plan to talk about new “security guarantees” for both Finland and Sweden, intended to protect them from Russia while the NATO application plays out.
Allies will also explore security guarantees for Finland and Sweden for the duration of a ratification period that could take as long as a year, during which the Nordic countries are not yet protected by NATO’s article 5 which guarantees that an attack on one ally is an attack on all.
They will also assess the military situation on the ground and their aid to the Ukraine military, and will discuss a first draft of NATO’s new strategic concept, its basic military doctrine, which is set to be agreed at a leaders summit in Madrid at the end of June.
We only recently learned that the Swedish Foreign Minister claimed to have been told by Antony Blinken that both Sweden and Finland had received such security assurances from the United States, as well as France and Great Britain. If this crew plans on dragging even more NATO countries into these security assurances, that sounds an awful lot like they would be making both countries de facto NATO members without waiting for the formal NATO admission process to play out. It also potentially drags us one step closer to being in a hot war with Russia. And such an agreement would yet again leave Ukraine asking, ‘what about us?’