Turkey’s parliament voted overwhelmingly on January 24th to approve Sweden’s application for NATO membership, removing a critical obstacle to the Nordic country joining the alliance.
Background – Sweden and Finland Apply to Join NATO
Sweden and neighboring Finland submitted formal requests to join NATO in May 2022, reversing decades of military non-alignment after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Joining the alliance would bring the protections of NATO’s mutual defense clause – that an attack on one member is considered an attack on all.
The applications marked a dramatic turnaround from the two countries’ longstanding policies. Both had avoided military alliances for generations. But Russia’s war in Ukraine led to growing support among their citizens and leaders for joining the alliance.
Months of Negotiations with Turkey
While most NATO members welcomed and supported Sweden and Finland’s bids, objections from Turkey – also a NATO member – stalled the process.
Turkey accused the two Nordic countries of harboring members of groups it views as terrorist organizations, including Kurdish militant groups like the PKK, demanding they alter laws and extradite suspects before backing their accession.
After months of negotiations, breakthrough deals were reached. Sweden and Finland agreed in June 2022 to address Turkey’s concerns, promising tighter anti-terror laws and stronger cooperation.
In return Turkey lifted its opposition to Finland joining NATO, with the country formally invited to join as a member in July 2022.
Key Details of Sweden’s Agreement with Turkey
Sweden will examine Turkish requests for extradition of terror suspects more rapidly|
Sweden will tighten laws and sentencing guidelines around terrorism|
Assets of groups Turkey deems terrorists can be more easily frozen|
Enhanced intelligence sharing with Turkey on groups like the PKK|
But Turkey maintained blocks on Sweden’s accession until additional commitments were made, only giving final approval in January 2024.
What Held Up Sweden’s Accession
Despite acceding to Turkey’s demands over counter-terror policies months ago, Sweden’s NATO bid remained stalled. Turkey accused Sweden of failing to fulfill key pledges like revising sentencing laws around terrorism.
Critics contended Turkey’s President Erdogan was using the standoff for domestic politics, rallying nationalistic support within Turkey to retain power ahead of elections, while trying to extract concessions from Sweden.
Final Approval Comes Ahead of Elections
With elections scheduled in Turkey for May 2023, observers believe Erdogan finally approved Sweden’s bid to shore up foreign policy credentials with voters. Lifting opposition to Sweden also avoids extended economic sanctions that could have followed from other NATO states over the impasse.
Approval came shortly after Sweden amended laws in late 2022 to toughen sentencing around terrorism, meeting a key demand from Turkey.
In January, Turkey’s foreign minister said Sweden had addressed all Turkey’s concerns, paving the way for the parliamentary vote.
What Comes Next for Sweden Joining NATO
With Turkey’s backing secured, only Hungary remains opposed to Sweden’s NATO accession. But Hungary is now isolated internationally, and its leader Viktor Orban has signaled he will ultimately approve Sweden’s bid.
Orban has invited Sweden’s prime minister to Budapest to discuss NATO, and stated Hungary will quickly ratify Sweden’s accession.
Possible Timeline for Sweden Joining NATO
Hungarian parliament approves Sweden|
Accession protocols for Sweden signed|
Parliaments of all NATO members ratify|
Sweden formally joins NATO|
Once Hungary and other NATO states complete ratification, Sweden can accede to NATO with similar rapidity as Finland, likely within months.
Implications – Strengthening NATO Against Russia
With Sweden and Finland, NATO will reach 32 members, growing to encompass almost all Western states in Europe. This leaves Russia more isolated and surrounded.
Militarily, Sweden and Finland add advanced capabilities to NATO’s inventory. Sweden spends over 1.3% of GDP on defense and possesses modern aircraft and submarines. Finland has over 900,000 reserves and has maintained high readiness following decades guarding its border with Russia.
Their NATO accession represents a powerful strategic setback for Russia, expanding the alliance Moscow sought to weaken by attacking Ukraine. It also complicates Russian naval access to the Baltic and North Seas.
Ultimately Turkey’s approval of Sweden joining NATO will strengthen the alliance at a critical juncture in European security, as the war in Ukraine continues with no end in sight.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.