In a stunning reversal of its previous stance, Turkey has now signaled support for Sweden joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
On Tuesday, the foreign affairs committee of the Turkish parliament consented to Sweden joining NATO. That decision brings Sweden closer to joining the military alliance, just as its neighbor, Finland, did successfully earlier this year.
The general assembly of Turkey’s parliament now has to approve the move before it can proceed to the NATO group at large. A date for that vote hasn’t been set as of yet.
Turkey, which is a member of NATO, has to this point delayed Sweden’s membership for more than a year now over accusations that they are too lenient toward some groups that Turkey views threaten their country. This includes Kurdish militants as well as a network that Turkey blames for a coup in 2016 that ultimately failed.
Last month, the foreign affairs committee in Turkey started to discuss Sweden’s potential NATO membership. That meeting was adjourned, though, after some legislators motioned for it to be postponed because they needed to iron out some issues as well as allow negotiations with Sweden to mature more.
When those deliberations were taken back up this week, a majority of those who sit on the committee supported the application from Sweden to join NATO.
Burak Akcapar, the deputy foreign minister of Turkey, said prior to the vote being taken that Sweden took many steps to meet demands Turkey made. That includes lifting restrictions on sales in the defense industry as well as making amendments to its anti-terrorism laws in ways that “no one could have imagined five or six years ago.”
As he said:
“It is unrealistic to expect that the Swedish authorities will immediately fulfill all of our demands. This is a process, and this process requires long-term and consistent effort.”
Tobias Billstrom, the foreign minister of Sweden, celebrated the decision by the committee after the vote was made public. He posted on the social media platform X:
“The next step is for parliament to vote on the matter. We look forward to becoming a member of NATO.”
NATO leaders also expressed their pleasure with the move, with Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of the alliance, saying he is counting on both Hungary and Turkey “to now complete their ratifications as soon as possible. Sweden’s members will make NATO stronger.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan of invading Ukraine as a way to stop NATO from increasing its influence near its borders has backfired in a major way. Due to the ongoing war, Finland and Sweden both applied to join the alliance, after many years of remaining neutral in world conflicts.
Finland’s decision was particularly damaging to Russia, as the two share hundreds of miles of a direct border to Russia’s west. That brought NATO military units directly to Russia’s doorsteps, which is something the communist country obviously didn’t want.
Every member of NATO must approve of a new member joining, which is why Hungary and Turkey have been able to wield outsized influence in Sweden’s bid.