Finland’s top diplomat hints at joining NATO without Sweden

  • In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto attends a news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

HELSINKI — Finland’s foreign minister suggested Tuesday that the country may consider joining NATO without neighboring Sweden if Turkey continues to block their joint bid to enter the military alliance.

Pekka Haavisto later backpedaled, but his comments were the first time a leading government official in either Nordic country appeared to raise doubts about becoming NATO members together at a time when the alliance is seeking to present a united front in the face of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

ADVERTISING


Sweden and Finland rushed to apply for NATO membership following Moscow’s invasion, abandoning their long-standing non-alignment policy. Their accession needs the approval of all existing NATO members, including Turkey, which has so far blocked the expansion, saying Sweden in particular needs to crack down on exiled Kurdish militants and their sympathizers.

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Sweden again not to expect support for its application following weekend protests in Stockholm by an anti-Islam activist and pro-Kurdish groups.

Asked a day later whether it still made sense for Finland to proceed together with the Swedes, Haavisto told broadcaster YLE that his country would have to “evaluate the situation if it turns out that Sweden’s application is stalling for a long time to come.”

Haavisto later told reporters in Parliament that his comment was “imprecise” and that Finland’s ambition to enter NATO jointly with Sweden remained unchanged.

He said he had spoken with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who had stressed to Haavisto that the military bloc would like to see the two nations join simultaneously.

Until now, Sweden and Finland had been committed to joining the alliance together.

“This is the first crack in the so far rather impressive unity between Sweden and Finland,” said Paul Levin, director of the Institute for Turkish Studies at Stockholm University.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiwarriorworld@staradvertiser.com.