NATO chief hints Finland, Sweden could join alliance separately

NATO’s secretary-general has said it is more important that Finland and Sweden join the military alliance quickly rather than at the same time amid tensions between the pair and Turkey, which has refused to ratify the Nordic nations’ membership bids.

Speaking before a meeting of NATO defence ministers at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday, Jens Stoltenberg said the “main question is not whether Finland and Sweden are ratified together”.

“The main question is that they are both ratified as full members as soon as possible,” he told reporters.

Stoltenberg’s comments marked the first open acknowledgment by NATO that the two countries may join the alliance separately after they abandoned decades of non-alignment and applied to join NATO in the wake of Russia’s operation in Ukraine in February last year.

Their respective membership bids have been ratified by all 30 of the transatlantic alliance’s member states, except Hungary and Turkey, which is widely seen as the main hold-up to their joining.

Unanimous approval is required for any country to become a new member.

Turkish opposition to Sweden’s bid

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has indicated his country could ratify Finland’s application even while continuing to block Sweden’s.

“Our position on Finland is positive, but it is not positive on Sweden,” he told Turkish parliamentarians at the beginning of February.

Ankara has accused the government in Stockholm of being too lenient toward groups it deems to be “terrorist” organisations or existential threats, including Kurdish groups.

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