After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden decided to abandon their long-held neutrality and attempt to join up with NATO, the world’s biggest military organization.
But what was expected to be an easy entry has yet to get approval from all NATO members, and will surely be a major topic of conversation as the alliance’s annual summit begins in Madrid Tuesday.
Here’s where things stand:
Why do Finland and Sweden want to join NATO?
After Russian’s invasion of Ukraine, its potential threat to the sovereignty of other nearby nations became even more evident, pushing Sweden and Finland to seek acceptance into the North Atlantic Alliance for their own protection and to help create a stronger union against Russia.
“Swedish NATO membership would raise the threshold for military conflicts and have a conflict-preventing effect in northern Europe,” Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde argues.
The location of these countries on the Baltic Sea, as well as Finland sharing a border with Russia, makes their entry especially prevalent. The Biden administration supports the expansion.
“Finland and Sweden make NATO stronger,” President Biden said last month. “And a strong, united NATO is the foundation of America’s security.”
Swedish officials tell NewsNation….
They believe they will not be a burden, but rather great assets to the alliance, bringing advanced military capabilities and preparedness while meeting NATO standards for yearly defense budgets.
A Swedish official tells NewsNation that the Nordic countries are some of the only small countries still building their own fighter jets and submarines.
“We are bringing a lot in terms of military,” says the official, calling Sweden a sort of “underwater superpower” in the Baltic Sea in number of submarines.
Both countries are also familiar with NATO processes, having already trained with NATO troops and participated in previous operations and missions in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq, a Swedish official says.
What’s the impact to the U.S.?
Although the Senate has approved NATO’s expansion, there have been questions over economic turmoil and strain on the U.S. military. Is it worth it to defend two wealthy European welfare states, especially given everything going on domestically?
U.S. military leaders claim their membership won’t lead to a permanent stationing of troops in either nation, but the expansion will cost money – and the U.S. could end up footing a majority of the bill, which could be in the billions.
The ultimate intention would be to make the U.S. military – and NATO’s military – stronger by teaming up with each nation’s advanced capabilities. It also sends a clear message to Russia on western unity.
While domestic issues are still front-and-center, the war in Ukraine continues to put pressure on the Biden administration to act.
Why is Turkey against their entry?
Most NATO countries will approve the expansion to include Sweden and Finland.
However, the Turkish government has objected to the addition. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is angered by what he says is support from Helsinki and Stockholm for Kurdish militants, even calling Sweden a “nesting ground for terrorists.”
Turkish Kurds have an evident political presence in Sweden, while Turkey opposes the Kurds’ statehood demands, and has clashed with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for decades, labeling them a terrorist organization. For this reason, Turkey refuses to welcome the country into NATO, but talks between the countries continue.
What’s expected at NATO this week?
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is set to attend a round of talks Tuesday with leaders of Sweden and Finland, as well as NATO on the first day of the Madrid summit.
After a phone call between Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Erdogan on Saturday, Magdalena says they are “hopeful for a solution” between the two countries this week.
But a Turkish spokesperson reiterates these talks “[don’t] mean we will take a step back from our position.”
A Swedish official tells NewsNation there is solidarity between Sweden and Finland: neither will join NATO without the other.
Their bids to join must be unanimously approved by NATO’s 30 members.