Finland, Sweden take huge step toward NATO membership

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs Anne Linde give a news conference after the signing of the accession protocols of Finland and Sweden at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images)

30 NATO allies signed off on accession protocols, but could be months before 2 countries are full members

The 30 NATO allies signed off on the accession protocols for Sweden and Finland on Tuesday, sending the membership bids of the two nations to the alliance capitals for legislative approvals — and possible political trouble in Turkey.

The move further increases Russia’s strategic isolation in the wake of its invasion of neighbouring Ukraine in February and military struggles there since.

“This is truly a historic moment for Finland, for Sweden and for NATO,” said alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

The 30 ambassadors and permanent representatives formally approved the decisions of last week’s NATO summit when the alliance made the historic decision to invite Russia’s neighbour Finland and Scandinavian partner Sweden to join the military club.

Turkey could still pose problems

Securing parliamentary approval for the new members in Turkey, however, could still pose a problem even though Sweden, Finland and Turkey reached a memorandum of understanding at the recent Madrid summit.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Ankara could block the process if the two countries failed to agree to Turkey’s demands for the extradition of people it views as terror suspects. The people wanted in Turkey have links to outlawed Kurdish groups or the network of an exiled cleric accused of a failed 2016 coup in Turkey.

He said Turkey’s parliament could refuse to ratify the deal. It is a potent threat since NATO accession must be formally approved by all 30 member states, which gives each a blocking right.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky are seen during a joint news conference on Monday in Kyiv, Ukraine. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has spurred Sweden, along with Finland, to seek membership in the NATO military alliance after decades of neutrality. (Alexey Furman/Getty Images)

Stoltenberg said he expected no change of heart. “There were security concerns that needed to be addressed. And we did what we always do at NATO. We found common ground.”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has given the process added urgency. It will ensconce the two nations in the Western military alliance and give NATO more clout, especially in the face of Moscow’s military threat.

“We will be even stronger and our people will be even safer as we face the biggest security crisis in decades,” Stoltenberg said.

No list of extradition targets, Sweden and Finland say

At a news conference, the foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland were asked whether the memorandum specified people who would have to be extradited to Turkey. Both ministers said no such list was part of the agreement.

“We will honour the memorandum fully. There is, of course, no lists or anything like that in the memorandum, but what we will do is to have better co-operation when it comes to terrorists,” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto was equally adamant.

“Everything that was agreed in Madrid is stated in the document. There are no hidden documents behind that or any agreements behind that,” Haavisto said.

Every alliance nation has different legislative challenges and procedures to deal with, and it could take several more months for the two to become official members.

Germany’s parliament is set to ratify the membership bids on Friday, according to coalition party Free Democrats. Other parliaments might only get to the approval process after the long summer break.

“I look forward to a swift ratification process,” Haavisto said.

In the meantime, the protocols approved Tuesday bring both nations deeper into NATO’s fold already. As close partners, they already attended some meetings that involved issues that immediately affected them. As official invitees, they can attend all meetings of the ambassadors even if they do not yet have any voting rights.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Canada’s NORAD upgrades a ‘good move’ for northern security, says Nunavut MP, CBC News

Finland: US military refuelling plane flies over Finland day after NATO announcement, The Independent Barents Observer

Greenland: Denmark, Faroe Islands agree to establish air surveillance radar to bolster gaps in Arctic surveillance, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Arctic security discussed at Reykjavik Northern Group meeting, Eye on the Arctic

NorwayDefence minister says Norway must get stronger in the North, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Strengthen border to Nordic countries, says secretary of Russia’s Security Council, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Turkey green lights Sweden and Finland’s NATO application, Radio Sweden

United States: U.S. Army poised to revamp Alaska forces to prep for Arctic fight, The Associated Press

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