NATO Talks With Finland, Sweden Falter 05/19 06:16
BRUSSELS (AP) -- NATO envoys failed to reach a consensus Wednesday on
whether to start membership talks with Finland and Sweden, diplomats said, as
Turkey renewed its objections to the two Nordic countries joining.
The envoys met at NATO's headquarters in Brussels after Finland and Sweden's
ambassadors submitted written applications to join the military organization,
in a move that marks one of the biggest geopolitical ramifications of Russia's
war on Ukraine -- and which could rewrite Europe's security map.
The diplomats, who did not want to be named because of the sensitive nature
of the proceedings, declined to say who or what was holding up the procedure.
They pointed to the messages from many of the 30 NATO allies welcoming Finland
and Sweden's request.
Lithuanian Ambassador Deividas Matulionis told Swedish and Finnish media
that the envoys had exchanged views about their national security. "The
discussion was about that, but it is up to Turkey to comment," he said.
NATO officials also refused to provide details. They underlined remarks
earlier Wednesday by Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, that "we are
determined to work through all issues and reach a rapid conclusion." Meetings
and diplomatic outreach aimed at resolving the problem will continue.
U.S. President Joe Biden voiced optimism on the matter Wednesday.
"I think we're going to be OK," he said.
Turkey is the only ally to have clearly voiced its opposition -- and while
Croatia's president on Wednesday suggested his country could do the same to
secure a tradeoff from Western powers, he's unlikely to derail the Croatian
government's support for the Nordic pair's NATO accession.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists Finland and Sweden must show
more respect for Turkish sensitivities about terrorism. He is refusing to budge
over what he says is their alleged support for Kurdish militants.
Erdogan accuses the two countries of turning a blind eye to activities of
the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, even though the group is on the
European Union's anti-terror blacklist.
"You will not hand over terrorists to us, but you will ask us to allow you
to join NATO. NATO is a security entity ... Therefore, we cannot say 'yes' to
depriving this security organization of security," he said Wednesday.
Croatian President Zoran Milanovic said his Balkan country should follow
suit. Milanovic is feuding with Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on domestic
"We should follow Turkey's example," Milanovic said. "Turkey will sell its
NATO status at a high price."
Before Croatia's lawmakers ratify the Nordic pair's NATO bid, Milanovic -- a
socialist -- wants a change of neighboring Bosnia's electoral law in favor of
Bosnian Croats. But Plenkovic' conservative party enjoys a small majority over
the socialists in parliament, and would likely carry the vote on Finland and
Sweden's NATO bids.
The day had started off on an upbeat note in Brussels. Stoltenberg had said
the military alliance stands ready to seize a historic moment and move quickly
on allowing Finland and Sweden to join its ranks, after the two countries
submitted their membership requests.
The official applications set a security clock ticking. Russia, whose war on
Ukraine spurred them to join the alliance, has warned that it wouldn't welcome
such a move, and could respond.
"I warmly welcome the requests by Finland and Sweden to join NATO. You are
our closest partners," Stoltenberg said. "We all agree that we must stand
together, and we all agree that this is an historic moment which we must seize."
"This is a good day at a critical moment for our security," a beaming
Stoltenberg said, as he stood alongside the two envoys, with NATO, Finnish and
Swedish flags at their backs.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that the alliance stop
expanding toward Russia's borders, and several NATO allies, led by the United
States and Britain, have signaled that they stand ready to provide security
support to Finland and Sweden should the Kremlin try to provoke or destabilize
them during the time it takes to become full members.
The countries will only benefit from NATO's Article 5 security guarantee --
the part of the alliance's founding treaty that pledges that any attack on one
member would be considered an attack of them all -- once the membership
ratification process is concluded, probably in a few months.
A senior U.S. defense official said the Pentagon is having ongoing
discussions with Sweden and Finland on their security needs to deter Russia as
they move toward NATO membership.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private
Pentagon discussions, said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Swedish
Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist Wednesday and they spoke about the interim
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Wednesday that the
U.S. and European allies are "prepared to send a very clear message ... that we
will not tolerate any aggression against Finland or Sweden" until NATO's
Article 5 kicks in for them.
Sullivan also said Biden asked his national security team and cabinet
principals about the risks and benefits of Finland and Sweden joining NATO, and
they "unanimously" supported backing the move as both countries are provenly
"highly capable security partners."
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the Nordic applications in a
tweet and said that "Putin's appalling ambitions have transformed the
geopolitical contours of our continent." Germany, Italy, the Baltic states and
the Czech Republic all spoke favorably about the candidates.
The membership process usually takes eight to 12 months, but NATO wants to
move quickly given the threat from Russia hanging over the Nordic countries'
Public opinion in Finland and Sweden has shifted massively in favor of
membership since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Finland and Sweden cooperate closely with NATO. They have functioning
democracies, well-funded armed forces and contribute to the alliance's military
operations and air policing.