Spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden applied last month to join NATO, anticipating swift and smooth entry into the alliance. Instead they are in a bind, their path blocked by the unpredictable Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
With NATO’s annual summit beginning on June 29 in Madrid, their expectations to be greeted as fast-track applicants are quickly fading, after Mr. Erdogan backtracked on earlier promises not to put obstacles in their way. Ibrahim Kalin, Mr. Erdogan’s main foreign-policy spokesman, says there is no schedule for their acceptance, and has even talked of a delay of a year.
Finland is especially frustrated, mindful of its 830 miles of border with Russia. After the Feb. 24 invasion, Finland moved quickly to prepare its application, and Finnish diplomats, according to Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, checked with all 30 NATO members in advance and got rapid green lights from them all. That included an assurance from Mr. Erdogan himself, Finland’s president, Sauli Niinisto, has said.
NATO was so confident that the invitation to both countries would go smoothly that it choreographed a series of events around a vote accepting the applications in May, which the alliance had to cancel when Turkey suddenly objected. [Continue reading…]