Nearly nine months after Finland and Sweden formally submitted their applications to join NATO, only two of the 30 Allies have yet to ratify the protocols required to complete the accession process. In November, Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán voiced support for Finnish and Swedish accession and promised the ratification issue “will be on the agenda of the first session of parliament,” which begins this month. In contrast, following demonstrations in Stockholm in mid-January by pro-Kurdish groups and the burning of a Koran by a far-right politician and anti-Islam provocateur, Türkiye’s President Erdogan warned that “Sweden should not expect support from us for NATO.” Only days later, he explicitly linked parliamentary ratification of Finnish and Swedish accession to their extradition “of nearly 130 terrorists.” More recently, Erdogan seemed to suggest that Ankara might agree to Finland’s accession before Sweden’s, stating: “We may deliver Finland a different message, and Sweden would be shocked when they see our message. But Finland should not make the same mistake Sweden did.”
The effects of this apparent stand-off are significant and wide ranging. While Finland and Sweden have received bilateral security assurances from the United States and other Allies since applying for NATO membership, they are not yet covered by the NATO Treaty’s Article 5 collective defence obligation. Nor can they fully participate in all aspects of Alliance planning activities, operations, information sharing, and decision making — a situation that runs counter to the Alliance’s efforts to strengthen its deterrence and defense capabilities in the wake of Russia’s renewed aggression against Ukraine. Meanwhile, Türkiye’s stance on Finnish and Swedish accession also risks further strains in its bilateral relations with the United States. Those relations are already plagued by disputes—for example, over U.S. combat aircraft sales to Türkiye (and the latter’s purchase of Russian advanced air defence systems), their respective policies toward Syria, the application of sanctions on Russia due to its war on Ukraine, and broader regional policies of Washington and Ankara.
This episode of Transatlantic Currents will discuss the current and possible future contours of U.S. policy regarding Finnish and Swedish accession to NATO as Washington seeks to achieve that goal as soon as possible while managing its important strategic relations with NATO Ally Türkiye.