Turkey Delivers Massive Blow to Putin's Hopes of Blocking NATO Expansion

NATO on Tuesday announced that Turkey has agreed to a deal that clears the way for Finland and Sweden to join the international alliance. The move dealt a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has cited the possibility of NATO expansion as one of the justifications for his war in Ukraine.

Turkey had previously said it would block Finland and Sweden from joining NATO, citing security concerns over accusations that the two countries harbored members of the separatist Kurdistan's Workers Party, which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey. Sweden and Finland would have been prevented from joining if Turkey objected because consensus is needed by NATO's 30 members for a country to join, and any one member can veto new candidates.

NATO's announcement said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Türkiye (Turkey) had met with President Sauli Niinistö of Finland and Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden under the auspices of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a NATO summit in Madrid on Tuesday. The three leaders agreed to a memorandum that addressed Turkey's security concerns, which was signed by the foreign ministers of the three countries.

The move "sends a very clear message to President Putin that NATO's door is open," Stoltenberg told reporters at the Madrid summit, according to Bloomberg. "He wanted less NATO, now President Putin is getting more NATO, on his borders. So what he gets is the opposite of what he actually demanded."

Vladimir Putin attends a security meeting
Turkey dealt a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin's desire to keep NATO from expanding when the country agreed to a deal that will allow Sweden and Finland to proceed with their applications to join the alliance. In this photo, Putin is seen during a meeting with members of the U.N. Security Council via a teleconference call in Moscow on June 22. Photo by MIKHAIL METZEL/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

One of the several reasons Putin has given for his invasion of Ukraine was his desire to prevent the expansion of NATO. However, it was the Ukraine war that spurred Finland and Sweden to simultaneously submit letters of application to join NATO on May 18.

Putin has been a vocal critic of those two countries joining NATO in the past, though he later downplayed his concerns about their possible membership during a meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization in Moscow last month.

"As to enlargement [of NATO], Russia has no problem with these states—none. And so in a sense, there is no immediate threat to Russia from an expansion [of NATO] to include these countries," Putin said during that meeting.

However, the Russian leader has also warned that Russia would respond if NATO began to boost military infrastructure in Sweden and Finland.

"What that [response] will be—we will see what threats are created for us," Putin said in May at the Grand Kremlin Palace. "Problems are being created for no reason at all. We shall react accordingly."

Stoltenberg said NATO leaders will decide on Wednesday whether to invite Finland and Sweden to join the alliance, but he added he was "confident" in their membership, CNN reported.