MADRID — NATO leaders are set to officially invite Finland and Sweden to join the alliance on Wednesday after Turkey lifted its veto on their membership, paving the way for what would be one of the alliance’s most significant expansions in decades.
The landmark deal, following Turkey’s agreement on a memorandum with the two Nordic countries, underscores how the war in Ukraine has backfired on President Vladimir V. Putin, undermining Russian efforts to weaken the NATO and pushing Sweden and Finland, which were neutral and non-aligned for decades. , in the arms of the covenant.
After weeks of talks, culminating in an hour-long meeting in Madrid, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to lift his block on Swedish and Finnish membership in return for a set of actions and promises that they would act against terrorism and terrorist organizations.
“As NATO Allies, Finland and Sweden are committed to fully supporting Turkey against threats to its national security,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, providing some details on the agreement. “This includes further changes to their national legislation, cracking down on PKK activities and reaching an agreement with Turkey on extradition,” he added, referring to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which wants an independent Kurdish state on territory partly within Turkey’s borders.
The next steps for Finland and Sweden are clear: NATO will vote on Wednesday to accept their candidacies. There will also be a quick study of their defense capabilities and needs. But the talks are expected to be routine, since the two countries are NATO partners and have exercised with NATO allies.
The final, more difficult step requires the legislatures of the current 30 members to vote to amend NATO’s founding treaty to accept the new members. It has taken up to a year in the past, but it is expected to be much faster for the Nordic countries.
The US Senate is already advancing hearings on the nomination, and Mr. Biden has been a strong supporter of the new members.
Mr Erdogan had blocked Nordic countries’ NATO applications amid concerns over Sweden’s longstanding support for the PKK, which has attacked non-military targets and killed civilians in Turkey, is banned in that country and is designated by both the United States and the European Union. as a terrorist organization.
But the memorandum does not specify the extradition of any of the roughly 45 people Mr. Erdogan wanted to send to Turkey to stand trial on terrorism charges. Sweden has already passed tougher anti-terrorism legislation which will come into force on Friday.
Finland and Sweden had been militarily unaligned for many years, but decided to apply to join the alliance after Russia invaded Ukraine in February. With Russia attacking a neighbour, both countries felt vulnerable, although Sweden, with a long tradition of neutrality, was more hesitant.
Mr Putin has warned both countries against joining NATO, but his threats have proven counterproductive.
Both countries bring geostrategic advantages to the alliance. Finland shares an 830-mile border with Russia and has a well-equipped modern army; Sweden can control the entrance to the Baltic Sea, which will greatly help NATO’s planning to defend the most vulnerable countries in Eastern Europe.
The final push to resolve the dispute began early Tuesday, when President Biden called on Mr Erdogan to urge him to ‘seize the moment’ on the eve of the summit, to allow talks on other topics to continue. , according to a senior administration official with knowledge of the debate.
The official said the agreement between Turkey and the two Nordic countries involved compromises on both sides, including Turkey’s statement inviting Finland and Sweden to apply and issues involving an arms embargo imposed on the country. Turkey and Turkey’s belief that Finland and Sweden had offered safe havens. to groups they considered terrorists.
Johanna Lemola contributed reporting from Helsinki, Finland.