Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod believes the NATO alliance will prove united on the possible accession of Finland and Sweden, despite signals from Turkey suggesting Ankara is not ready to support the historic expansion.
Kofod spoke with news week on Saturday on the sidelines of the Lennart Meri Conference in Tallinn, Estonia. The annual event focuses on foreign and security policy issues from Eastern and Northern European perspectives, and this year is dominated by discussions of the war in Ukraine and NATO’s impending expansion.
“With both Sweden and Finland, all the signs now coming from them look like they will apply for NATO membership, but we have to wait for a formal decision,” Kofod said. news week.
“But if that happens, there is no doubt that for the Nordic region, and particularly for the five Nordic countries, it will be a historic moment. We will increase our security fundamentally.”
Politicians, officials and NATO commanders welcomed Finland’s decision earlier this week to seek full membership in the alliance. Sweden is expected to follow suit, with both nations likely to join the transatlantic bloc during or shortly before the NATO summit in Madrid in late June.
But Turkey, long involved in fierce internal NATO disputes, has expressed reservations. “We are currently following the developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t feel good about it,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on Friday.
“We don’t want to make a mistake,” the president added. “Scandinavian countries are like guest houses for terrorist organizations. To go further, they also have seats in their parliaments.”
Erdogan’s comments referred to members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey considers terrorist organizations. The president also appeared to be referring to followers of US-based Muslim scholar Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for the failed 2016 coup attempt.
Kofod said news week ultimately, he did not expect Turkey to block Finnish or Swedish membership. “I hope for unity in NATO on this issue,” the foreign minister explained.
“In this fundamental discussion about security, I think everyone can see the situation that we find ourselves in, in Europe with the Russia issue and all the philosophy behind it, the whole autocratic worldview that we now see coming from Russia and expansionism,” Kofod said.
“I think everyone sees [it is] The right thing to do is to unite, all 30 NATO member states, including Turkey.”
news week has contacted the Turkish Foreign Ministry for comment. Erdogan’s adviser and spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, appeared to soften the president’s line on Saturday, telling Reuters: “We are not closing the door. But basically we are raising this issue as a national security issue for Turkey.”
Kofod said President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine has proven to be a serious strategic mistake. Renewed Russian aggression has spurred the NATO expansion that Moscow has criticized for so long, as well as triggered Western sanctions that threaten to cripple the Russian economy.
“I think this is probably the beginning of the end of that kind of regime with that kind of authoritarianism and disregard for international law, for its neighbors, expansionism with military force that we see in Ukraine right now,” Kofod explained.
“I think all of us in Europe and transatlantic realize that and that is why we are coming together so strongly,” Kofod said.
The Kremlin has repeatedly threatened retaliation if Finland and Sweden join NATO. This week, the Russian energy company RAO Nordic announced that it would suspend the supply of electricity to Finland from Sunday. National grid operator Fingrid said the shortfall would be made up with additional supply from Sweden and more power generated from within Finland.
“The Kremlin and Putin and what we see today is the number one enemy of democracy and democratic values,” Kofod added. “This is a big strategic mistake by the Putin regime.”
“We wanted to resolve any dispute peacefully, through diplomatic means,” Kofod said.
“We have offered over and over again, and we are still doing it. But he dismissed all offers of negotiations, of peaceful talks, and started an unprovoked illegal war with devastating destruction of the population in Ukraine. And that has to come with the highest possible price.
“We can stop it and also stop any precedent for that kind of behavior from anywhere,” Kofod added.
news week has contacted the Russian Foreign Ministry for comment.