Turkey removes opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO

Historic news from the NATO meeting in Spain took place on Tuesday when Turkey removed its opposition to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance. The Scandinavian nations sought membership after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and a deal has now been struck. Nick Schifrin joins Judy Woodruff from Madrid, where a NATO summit begins this week.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Historic news this evening from the NATO meeting in Spain. Turkey has removed its opposition to Sweden and Finland joining the security alliance. The Scandinavian nations sought membership after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and a deal has now been struck.

    Our Nick Schifrin is in Madrid for the summit, which starts in earnest tomorrow, and he joins me now.

    So, Nick, hello.

    Tell us, what led to Turkey changing its mind?

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Weeks of back-channel diplomacy between Turkey, Sweden, and Finland, with the U.S. and NATO playing key roles.

    But, Judy, senior officials, even here just a few hours ago didn't know whether this deal would go through. But it went through. And there was a signing ceremony just a few hours ago here in Madrid, NATO, Turkey, Finland and Sweden, a trilateral agreement, really in which Sweden and Finland gave in to some of President Erdogan's priorities.

    The agreement states — quote — "Finland and Sweden unambiguously condemn all terrorist organizations perpetrating attacks against Turkey" and names the organizations that Turkey defines as terrorist. And that is what a senior Turkish official tells me tonight is the most important part of this document.

    Number two, the document says that Finland and Sweden will drop embargoes that prevented them from selling Turkey weapons, and Finland and Sweden will address Turkey's requests to deport and extradite Kurds living in those countries.

    Some of those extraditions actually include journalists. And the U.S., for one, has refused some of Turkey's extraditions demand in the past. But, still, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg made this agreement today, and he said it reiterated NATO's core principle that countries that meet the alliance requirements can become members.

  • Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General:

    NATO's open-door policy has been an historic success. Welcoming Finland and Sweden into the alliance will make them safer, NATO stronger, and the Euro-Atlantic area more secure. This is vital as we face the biggest security crisis in decades.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    That, of course, is a reference to the war in Ukraine, which has really led, Judy, to a historic shift in European security in a matter of months.

    As you said, it has been many years that Sweden and Finland have been proud to the military-nonaligned. Today, they believe they need NATO to prevent Russia from further attacking even in their countries.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Nick, you mentioned the U.S. Tell us about the U.S. role in bringing this about.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Yes, it really played a key role, but it has downplayed that role from the very beginning.

    This morning, U.S., Sweden and Finland really calibrated a key call that President Biden made to Recep Tayyip Erdogan right before Erdogan was leaving Turkey in order to come here to Madrid, as the senior U.S. official who told us for it, to get Erdogan in the right frame of mind.

    Right before Finland and Sweden made the deal today, they called President Biden just to get his final blessing. And the official said that Biden's really been coordinating all of this with Finland and Sweden since November, trying to get to this day.

    And the U.S. believes, Judy, that this is the most historic NATO summit in decades, because of the combination of this expansion of NATO and the combined major increases in the deployment of NATO troops to Eastern Europe and an increased readiness of those NATO troops to deploy to Eastern Europe.

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