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June 19, 2024

Turkey Officially Approves Sweden’s NATO Bid, Paving Way for Expansion Despite Hungarian Resistance

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Jan 26, 2024

Turkey’s parliament has voted resoundingly to approve Sweden’s bid to join NATO, formally ratifying the Nordic country’s membership in the alliance. The move leaves Hungary as the sole NATO member yet to endorse Sweden’s accession. However, positive signals from Budapest suggest Sweden could enter NATO in the coming months, achieving a historic expansion of the alliance in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Erdogan Signs Off On Swedish Accession, Culminating Months-Long Diplomatic Saga

On January 25th, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a decree finalizing his country’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership. Turkey’s parliament had voted overwhelmingly in favor of Sweden’s accession the day prior, after Ankara lifted its months-long blockade of Stockholm joining the alliance.

Turkey had objected to Sweden’s bid over its harboring of Kurdish militants and groups Ankara deems terrorists. But after negotiations, Sweden agreed to address Turkey’s concerns, paving the way for Turkish lawmakers to endorse Swedish NATO membership.

The parliament’s foreign affairs committee first approved the motion, before a vote of at least 265 out of 600 MPs backed ratification. Erdogan’s approval the next day constituted the final step in Turkey formalizing Sweden’s accession.

Sweden’s foreign minister Ann Linde welcomed the development after months of tense talks, saying: “I am pleased that Sweden has taken a big step forward towards NATO membership.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg similarly praised the vote, tweeting: “This is important for Sweden, NATO and joint security.”

Hungary Left Isolated In Resisting Swedish Bid

Turkey’s decision to drop its resistance has left Hungary and its prickly leader Viktor Orban isolated as the last NATO state opposing Sweden’s rapid accession to the alliance.

Orban has argued the Swedish government is too liberal on LGBT rights and immigration. He has tied lifting Hungary’s veto to an end of EU penalties on Budapest over rule-of-law disputes.

This has drawn rebukes from European officials who accuse Orban of hostage diplomacy. Neighboring countries have similarly condemned the Hungarian premier for undermining NATO unity as it seeks to deter Russian aggression.

But on January 25th, Orban appeared to soften his defiant tone. His chief of staff Gergely Gulyas stated Hungary sees no reason to prolong debate around Sweden’s NATO entry.

Gulyas said the Hungarian parliament could vote on the issue in February. The remarks followed a reconciliatory letter from Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson to Orban the day prior.

Kristersson has since agreed to meet Orban face-to-face to resolve outstanding concerns over Sweden joining NATO. This could pave the way for Hungary to follow suit in formally backing Stockholm’s rapid accession to the 30-member alliance.

Timeline of Sweden and Finland’s Historic NATO Bids

  • May 2022: Sweden and Finland formally apply to join NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

  • June 2022: All NATO members except Turkey and Hungary ratify Finnish and Swedish membership.

  • October 2022: Erdogan resumes talks with Sweden and Finland during a NATO summit. But Turkey maintains its objections, especially towards Sweden.

  • December 2022: Hungary makes clear it will not approve new NATO entrants while still under EU disciplinary measures.

  • January 2023: Swedish PM Kristersson meets Erdogan in Ankara, agrees to address Turkey’s concerns over Kurdish militants.

  • January 25, 2023: Turkish parliament votes to back Swedish NATO bid after months of diplomacy. Erdogan’s decree finalizes Ankara’s approval.

  • Late February 2023: Hungary’s parliament provisionally set to vote through Sweden’s NATO accession, leaving only formalities before it can join alliance.

Sweden’s NATO Accession To Culminate Historic Strengthening of Alliance

If Hungary joins Turkey in backing Sweden’s bid as appears likely, it would culminate an unprecedented expansion of NATO amid the Ukraine war.

Sweden has abandonded centuries of neutrality in response to Russia’s invasion of its neighbor. Joining the alliance is seen as vital to boost Stockholm’s security in face of Russian aggression.

Finland is concurrently bidding to enter NATO in tandem with Sweden. With their combined highly-trained militaries, the two Nordic states will significantly enhance NATO’s defense capabilities in northern Europe.

Their accession will mean five neutral or non-aligned European states have joined NATO since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. This constitutes a historic strengthening of the alliance Putin allegedly aimed to weaken by attacking Ukraine.

Despite lingering Hungarian objections, Sweden appears on the cusp of achieving full NATO membership in the coming months. This will mark a severe setback for Putin’s foreign policy aims, as the alliance Putin sought to destroy expands up to Russia’s northwest border.

Impact on Turkey-US Relations and F-16 Sale

A side aspect of the Swedish NATO saga has been Turkey leveraging its position to pressure the US over weapons sales.

Ankara has pushed for years for Washington to approve the sale of advanced F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, but objections in Congress over Turkey’s human rights record have long stymied a deal.

However, Turkey’s approval of Swedish NATO membership has sparked hopes of a breakthrough in strained Turkey-US ties.

Biden administration officials have pledged to ramp up support for an F-16 sale on Capitol Hill after Erdogan signed off on Sweden joining NATO.

In a January 25 letter to Congress, the White House described plans to back expediting the fighter jet sale via Foreign Military Sales once Sweden enters NATO.

Turkish officials welcomed the letter as a sign of growing positivity in US-Turkey relations after years of tensions under Erdogan. Though many in Congress remain wary of exporting sensitive military technology to Turkey given disputes over its alignment with US interests.

So while Sweden’s NATO accession may mend Turkish ties with the alliance and America, US-Turkey defense cooperation still faces lingering obstacles from skeptical US lawmakers.

Overall the latest developments mark a dramatic turn after months of gridlock over Sweden joining NATO. While complications remain, Stockholm now appears firmly on the path to membership it once renounced, as the alliance achieves an historic expansion despite Russia seeking the opposite.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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