Finland tells Russia of NATO plan, downplays Turkey concerns

Finland tells Russia of NATO plan, downplays Turkey concerns
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(May 14): Finnish President Sauli Niinisto phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to say the Nordic country will decide to seek NATO membership in the next few days.

The conversation with Putin “was direct and straight-forward and it was conducted without aggravations”, he said in a statement.

Earlier on Saturday (May 14), Niinisto pushed back against suggestions Turkey would prevent his country and neighbouring Sweden from joining the military alliance, given that the US supports the move.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday Turkey doesn’t favour Sweden and Finland becoming members, citing concerns over Kurdish “terrorists”. NATO welcomes new members unanimously, and a decision to apply for entry is expected on Sunday from the two Nordic countries that pushed forward on plans to join the alliance after Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“I wouldn’t speculate at all that this would mean Turkey throwing a spanner in the works for good,” Niinisto said in an interview broadcast on Finland’s YLE TV1 on Saturday. “Until now, Turkey’s message to us has been completely the opposite,” he said, adding that “this is sure to lead to discussions, seeing as the US appears to have reacted”.

Turkey has long complained of insufficient cooperation from NATO and European allies in its fight with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is labelled as a terrorist organisation by the US and European Union. Erdogan singled out Sweden and Netherlands of serving as havens for Kurdish militants.

Niinisto, who on Friday spoke with US President Joe Biden and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson on a joint call, said Erdogan’s comments seemed to have taken Biden by surprise. The world’s strongest military power had later asked Turkey to clarify its comments, the Finnish leader said.

Niinisto’s remarks echo those of Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, who said Turkey hadn’t conveyed any concerns, and signalled the US would likely back a possible decision to join NATO.

“If we decide on that option, I think we would get very, very strong support from large, important countries that are members, and that Turkey is interested in having good relationships with,” Linde told Swedish Radio on Friday.