Turkey’s Parliament voted to approve Sweden’s accession to NATO on Tuesday, after more than a year of delays that have strained relations between Ankara and its Western allies.
Hungary now remains the last holdout in Sweden’s accession process but has previously touted that it would take a cue from Turkey if the country approved Stockholm’s bid.
Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban invited his Swedish counterpart for talks. Speaking to the press, Sweden’s foreign minister said that there was “no reason to negotiate” with Hungary for ratifying Sweden’s bid to join the security alliance, saying that Budapest, unlike Ankara, presented no pre-conditions that needed to be met.
Sweden, along with Finland, applied to join the defense bloc after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago. Helsinki was approved for NATO membership in April last year, while Sweden faced resistance from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan due to Stockholm’s perceived “soft stance” on Kurdish groups Ankara deems terrorists.
Sweden, in response, took steps to tighten its anti-terrorism legislation to which Turkey responded by agreeing to advance the country’s bid last year.
Sweden’s accession will boost NATO’s defenses
With Finland already in the bloc, Sweden’s accession will strengthen the overall military stability of northern and central Europe and will transform the Baltic Sea into a “NATO lake,” said one expert at the Atlantic Council, noting, in particular, the country’s wide expanse of strategic territory bordering the enclosed arm of the Atlantic Ocean. With the world’s fifth-largest navy, Sweden’s membership will also be crucial in protecting the Baltic states from Russia. “Swedish and Finnish NATO membership would provide NATO with another reinforcement route through the Baltic Sea,” a fellow for the Transatlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security told The Washington Post.
Washington has also been involved in negotiations
In exchange for ratifying Sweden’s NATO bid, Erdogan has demanded that Washington approve Turkey’s request to purchase F-16 fighter jets — a request that the Turkish leader reiterated to U.S. President Joe Biden over the phone last month. The White House has said that it backs the sale but has not delivered a clear timeframe for Congress to approve it, Reuters reported. During a visit to Istanbul last month, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Turkey’s request could win support from Congress if approval of Sweden’s NATO accession goes through. But some analysts believe that Turkey’s holdout over the Nordic country’s bid to join the alliance was over anger at Washington’s support for Israel in its war against Hamas, AFP reported.