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Finland, Sweden leaders visit White House as Turkey stands in the way of NATO expansion

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Posted at 4:52 AM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-19 11:22:23-04

Turkey's president has flatly stated that his country will oppose Sweden and Finland joining NATO.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a group of Turkish youth in a video released on Thursday, “We have told our relevant friends we would say ‘no’ to Finland and Sweden’s entry into NATO, and we will continue on our path like this.”

Turkey’s approval is crucial because NATO makes decisions by consensus. Each of its 30 member countries has the power to veto a membership bid.

Erdogan has said Turkey’s objection stems from grievances with Sweden’s, and to a lesser degree with Finland’s, perceived support of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party and of an armed group in Syria.

His announcement came as the leaders of Sweden and Finland visited the White House on Thursday to discuss NATO inclusion.

The moves by Sweden and Finland to join the alliance come after Russia invaded Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO. Had Ukraine been a member of NATO, other nations in the alliance would have been obligated to provide defense for the nation.

The Biden administration has expressed support for welcoming the two Scandinavian nations to the 30-member military alliance. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre expressed confidence on Tuesday the two nations would join NATO.

“And so, we welcome the recent statements from governments of Finland and Sweden on their intention to seek NATO membership,” Jean-Pierre said. “We will strongly support these applications when they are formally presented in Brussels. Both Finland and Sweden are close and valued defense partners of the United States and of NATO.”