NATO summit boosted by Turkey’s decision to end opposition to Sweden’s bid to join alliance

by Lucas Garcia
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Ukraine's NATO membership

The NATO summit kicked off on Tuesday, propelled by Turkey’s move to withdraw its opposition to Sweden’s application to join the alliance. This decision brings NATO closer to the solidarity that the Western leaders have long desired, particularly in the face of Russia’s Ukraine incursion.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s agreement represents a major stride towards Sweden’s admission into NATO and eases tensions in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. This accord was reached after a series of rigorous meetings and promises to bolster the alliance’s power in Northern Europe.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan proudly announced to reporters that “rumors of the death of NATO’s unity were greatly exaggerated.”

Under the agreement, Erdogan has committed to proposing Sweden’s NATO membership to Turkey’s parliament for approval. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, another opponent, is anticipated to follow a similar path.

This outcome is also a win for President Joe Biden, who has highlighted NATO’s expansion as proof of how Russia’s attack on Ukraine has backfired.

Finland has recently become the 31st NATO member, with Sweden in line to be the 32nd. Both of these traditionally neutral Nordic nations decided to align themselves due to heightened fears of Russian hostility.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg described the deal on Sweden’s membership as making “this summit… historic before it has started.”

Erdogan and Biden have scheduled a meeting on Tuesday evening. Yet, it remains uncertain how Erdogan’s additional requests, including the acquisition of advanced American fighter jets and the pursuit of EU membership, will be addressed. While the White House has shown support for both matters, it insists that these issues are not tied to Sweden’s NATO membership.

Biden declared his readiness late Monday to cooperate with Erdogan and Turkey in enhancing the Euro-Atlantic region’s defense and deterrence.

The Biden administration has also supported Turkey’s bid to acquire 40 new F-16s and modernization kits from the U.S. However, this move faces opposition from certain members of Congress due to issues such as Turkey’s stance on Sweden’s NATO membership and its human rights record.

The NATO summit will also address other significant questions over the course of two days, most notably Ukraine’s aspiration to join the alliance. The Baltic states, including the summit host Lithuania, are pushing for a strong display of support and a clear roadmap for Ukraine’s NATO membership.

Biden stated last week that Ukraine was not ready for membership, pointing out that NATO members need to meet a range of qualifications, including democratization and other governance-related issues. These comments highlight ongoing concerns about governance and corruption in Kyiv.

In a Foreign Affairs article on Monday, Stoltenberg noted that the alliance plans to “upgrade our political ties” with Ukraine through a NATO-Ukraine Council, which would serve as a decision-making and crisis consultation platform.

Stoltenberg has reassured that Ukraine will eventually join NATO, a promise initially made by President George W. Bush in 2008. He did not provide further details.

In the meantime, President Biden is on a five-day European tour with the NATO summit as its focal point. Following the summit, Biden will head to Helsinki to celebrate Finland’s recent NATO membership and meet with Nordic leaders.

This report was contributed to by Big Big News writers Aamer Madhani, Zeke Miller, Lisa Mascaro in Washington, and Lorne Cook in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about NATO Summit

What significant event boosted the NATO summit on Tuesday?

Turkey’s decision to withdraw its opposition to Sweden’s bid to join NATO gave the summit a significant boost. This step is seen as bringing the alliance closer to unity, particularly amid Russia’s incursion into Ukraine.

Who made the decision to end opposition to Sweden’s NATO membership?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided to end Turkey’s opposition to Sweden’s bid to join NATO.

How does Turkey’s decision affect Sweden’s NATO membership bid?

Turkey’s withdrawal of its objections removes a significant hurdle in Sweden’s path to NATO membership. It is expected to ease tensions in the alliance and potentially pave the way for Sweden to become the 32nd member of NATO.

What other countries are considering joining NATO?

Finland has recently become the 31st member of NATO, and Sweden is in line to become the 32nd. Ukraine also aspires to join the alliance, and the Baltic states are pushing for a clear pathway towards Ukraine’s membership.

Is there opposition to Turkey’s purchase of new F-16s from the US?

Yes, some members of Congress, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, have expressed reservations about the deal due to Turkey’s human rights record and other concerns.

What other significant issues are to be addressed at the NATO summit?

The summit is also set to discuss Ukraine’s desire to join NATO and concerns about governance and corruption in Kyiv. The summit aims to demonstrate unity within NATO and its strength in the face of Russia’s actions.

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