Turkey hands Vladimir Putin a boost by refusing to back Finland and Sweden’s bid to join Nato
- NATO membership needs all 30 countries backing including member Turkey
- Its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Nordic delegates not to bother visiting
- He also accussed Sweden and Finland of habouring terrorists in their countries
It accused Sweden – which formally announced its intention to join the alliance yesterday – of being a ‘hatchery’ for terrorist organisations.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told delegates from the two Nordic nations not to bother visiting Ankara for planned negotiations to address Turkey’s concerns.
His fierce resistance surprised allies and will be welcomed by Putin, who has claimed any expansion of Nato could be seen as a sign of Western aggression.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) gave Vladimir Putin (middle) a boost last night by refusing to support Finland and Sweden’s bid to join Nato. Pictured on right in 2015 is also chairman of Russia’s Council of Muftis Ravil Gainutdin
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said yesterday that the nation hoped its membership bid would be accepted quickly, adding: ‘We are leaving one era behind us and entering a new one.
‘Nato will strengthen Sweden, Sweden will strengthen Nato.’
The country’s application came a day after Finland said it would also join Nato, putting pressure on Russia, with which it shares an 830-mile border.
But Turkey’s opposition plunges the applications into doubt, as decisions on Nato enlargement must be approved by all 30 members.
Turkey believes Sweden and Finland harbour terrorists, including members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and followers of Turkish scholar Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of a 2016 coup attempt.
‘Neither of these countries have a clear, open attitude towards terrorist organisation,’ Mr Erdogan said yesterday. ‘How can we trust them?’
Swedish authorities said representatives from Sweden and Finland would to travel to Turkey for talks about its objections.
But Mr Erdogan retorted: ‘Are they coming to convince us? Excuse me, but they should not tire themselves.’
Putin responded to Sweden and Finland’s desire to join Nato by claiming that they were not a threat to Russia.
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson (pictured today) said that the nation hoped its NATO membership bid would be accepted quickly
But he warned other members against bolstering the two nations’ military capability. ‘As to enlargement, Russia has no problem with these states – none,’ he said.
‘So in this sense there is no immediate threat to Russia from an expansion to include these countries.
But the expansion of military infrastructure into this territory would certainly provoke our response.’
The row came as British troops took part in one of the largest Nato exercises ever conducted in the Baltic region yesterday.
Around 8,000 troops – along with 72 Challenger 2 tanks – have been deployed across Europe for a series of exercises.
Some have been sent to Estonia along with troops from 13 other nations to take part in Operation Hedgehog, which was arranged before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The military exercise – taking place just 40 miles from Russia’s nearest military base – simulates a Russian attack on Estonia.
With around 15,000 troops, it is one of the largest military drills held in the country. British soldiers have also been deployed to North Macedonia for Exercise Swift Response.
Nato has said the aim of the exercises is to ‘enhance the readiness and interoperability’ of its forces.