Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced a major shift in an ongoing standoff as world leaders arrived in Madrid for this week’s NATO conference. The debate over possible invitations to have Finland and Sweden join the alliance had been held up by Turkey’s continued refusal to approve the application. Recep Tayyip Erdogan had been insisting on concessions from both countries, claiming that they backed the Kurdish PKK group which Turkey considers a terrorist organization. Stoltenberg had been trying to sweet-talk Erdogan, going so far as to say that his concerns were completely justified. But on the eve of the summit, Erdogan announced that he would be reversing his position after getting the assurances that he had asked for. (Associated Press)

Turkey agreed Tuesday to lift its opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, ending an impasse that had clouded a leaders’ summit opening in Madrid amid Europe’s worst security crisis in decades, triggered by the war in Ukraine.

After urgent top-level talks with leaders of the three countries, alliance Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that “we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO.” He called it “a historic decision.”

Among its many shattering consequences, President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted Sweden and Finland to abandon their long-held nonaligned status and apply to join NATO as protection against an increasingly aggressive and unpredictable Russia — which shares a long border with Finland. Under NATO treaties, an attack on any member would be considered an attack against all and trigger a military response by the entire alliance.

Precise details of the agreement have not been released, but Erdogan is saying that Turkey had “got what it wanted” from both countries, including “full cooperation” in the fight against the Kurdish groups. This allegedly includes the extradition of Kurds from both countries to Turkey and an agreement by both countries to not impose sanctions on the Turkish defense industry.

This sounds like a complete cave on the part of Finland and Sweden since they are worried that the people they extradite to Turkey will be in grave danger. (That much should be obvious.) This agreement seems to speak to the urgency they feel about joining NATO and having strong military support if Russia tries to attack either one of them.

The invitation to both countries to join is expected to be issued today. Then the legislatures of all 30 member nations will need to officially vote on accepting the applications. That could happen in as little as two months after all of the leaders return home. But as Sweden’s Prime Minister said during a press conference this morning, with that many countries having to quickly come together on anything… “you never know.”

Assuming this happens, the big loser coming out of this development will obviously be Russia. Putin invaded Ukraine on the pretense that he wanted to stop NATO from expanding further to the east. Instead, NATO is on the verge of growing even larger, including Finland’s massive land border right on Russia’s doorstep. And once they are members, if Putin so much as fires a single missile over the border into Finland, he could find himself immediately at war with nearly the entire European Union as well as America and Canada.

Is he really crazy enough to risk starting world war 3? That’s the question we’ve been asking here since the beginning. I would hope the answer is no, but there’s no telling what’s going on in the mind of Mad Vlad these days.

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