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NATO nations sign accession protocols for Sweden and Finland

Finnish foreign minister, NATO secretary-general, Swedish foreign minister
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, left, shakes hands with Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde as NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg looks on.
(Olivier Matthys / Associated Press)
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The 30 NATO allies signed off on the accession protocols for Sweden and Finland on Tuesday, sending the membership bids of the two nations to the alliance capitals for legislative approvals — and possible political trouble in Turkey.

The move further increases Russia’s strategic isolation in the wake of its invasion of neighboring Ukraine in February and the ensuing war.

“This is truly a historic moment for Finland, for Sweden and for NATO,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

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The 30 ambassadors and permanent representatives formally ratified the decisions of last week’s NATO leaders summit in Madrid, when the alliance made the historic decision to invite the two Nordic nations to join the military club.

Parliamentary approval in member state Turkey could still pose problems for their final inclusion as members, despite a memorandum of understanding reached between the three countries.

Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Ankara could still block the process if the two countries fail to fully meet Turkey’s demand to extradite terror suspects with links to outlawed Kurdish groups or to the network of an exiled cleric accused of a failed 2016 coup in Turkey.

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Erdogan said Turkey’s parliament could refuse to ratify the deal. It is a potent threat since NATO accession must be formally approved by all 30 member states, which gives each a veto.

Stoltenberg said he expected no change of heart. “There were security concerns that needed to be addressed. And we did what we always do at NATO: We found common ground.”

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At a news conference, the foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland were peppered with questions about whether a specific list of people would need to be extradited to Turkey, but both said such a list was not part of the memorandum with Ankara.

“We will honor the memorandum fully. There is, of course, no lists or anything like that in the memorandum, but what we will do is to have better cooperation when it comes to terrorists,” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said.

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Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto was equally adamant.

“Everything that was agreed in Madrid is stated in the document. There are no hidden documents behind that or any agreements behind that,” Haavisto said.

Every alliance nation has different legislative challenges and procedures to deal with, and it could take several more months for the two Nordic countries to become official NATO members.

Denmark and Canada were quickest out of the blocks with their approvals. They handed over their ratification documents in Washington just hours after the accession protocols were signed in Brussels, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod told the Associated Press by phone.

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“It was a good signal not only to Sweden and Finland but to other NATO countries that the speed of ratification is important,” he said. “We hope this inspires other countries to react fast.”

The documents need to be handed over in Washington because NATO’s founding treaty was signed there in 1949.

Germany’s parliament is set to ratify the membership bids on Friday, according to government coalition member the Free Democrats. Other parliaments might only get to the approval process after the long summer break.

“I look forward to a swift ratification process,” Haavisto said.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has given the process added urgency. It will ensconce the two nations in the Western military alliance and give NATO more clout, especially in the face of Moscow’s military threat. Finland shares an 800-mile-long border with Russia.

“We will be even stronger and our people will be even safer as we face the biggest security crisis in decades,” said Stoltenberg.

Tuesday’s signing-off does bring both nations deeper into NATO’s fold already. As close partners, they already attended some meetings that involved issues that immediately affected them. As official invitees, they can attend all meetings of the ambassadors even if they do not yet have any voting rights.

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