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Watershed event

Both Finland and Sweden had been militarily non-aligned, but decided to join Nato after Russia invaded Ukraine on 23 February.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

Wednesday’s forward movement in international relations has happened in the midst of a war. The road has eventually been cleared for Finland and Sweden to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization ~ a watershed event by any reckoning. This has happened in the immediate aftermath of yet another dramatic development, specifically Turkey’s decision to lift its veto on their membership. This has cleared the way for what is arguably the most critical expansion of Nato in decades. The two Nordic countries have not been blackballed, after all. It is a historic deal that underscores how the relentless war in Ukraine has backfired for President Vladimir Putin.

On closer reflection, it has subverted Russian efforts to weaken Nato. Not the least because Finland and Sweden, which were neutral and non-aligned for decades, are now poised to be members of the alliance. The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, agreed to withdraw his qualms over the Nato membership of Sweden and Finland in return for a cache of actions and promises that both nations will act against terrorism and terrorist organizations. “As Nato allies, Finland and Sweden commit to fully support Turkey against threats to its national security,” said Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of Nato.

This envisages amending their domestic legislation, cracking down on Kurdish activities and concluding an agreement with Turkey on extradition. This was an obvious reference to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has been striving for an independent Kurdish state on territory partly within Turkish borders. Finland and Sweden are on the threshold of a new phase in diplomacy. Nato will vote to accept their applications. There will also be a rapid study of their defence capacities. But the talks are expected to be routine as both countries are aligned to Nato members and have conducted joint military exercises.

Quite the most difficult final step requires the legislatures of all 30 current members to vote and amend the treaty on Nato’s foundation, notably the provision on acceptance of new members. The US Senate is already pressing ahead with hearings on the application. It is significant that President Biden has been a firm proponent of new members. President Erdogan has for long been blocking Nato membership of the Nordic countries amid concerns over Sweden’s long-time support for the PKK, which has targeted non-military targets and killed civilians in Turkey.

There is a robust demand for the PKK to be outlawed and branded by both the United States and the European Union as a terrorist organization. Sweden has already passed tougher legislation against terrorism, a major initiative that is scheduled to take effect on Friday. Both Finland and Sweden had been militarily non-aligned, but decided to join Nato after Russia invaded Ukraine on 23 February. Vladimir Putin had warned both countries against joining Nato, but his threats turned out to be counter productive.