NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday played down any need for Finland and Sweden to join the alliance simultaneously.
“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,” Stoltenberg told reporters.
His assertion comes roughly two weeks after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey might approve Finland’s application to join NATO before taking any action on Sweden. And Turkey’s Foreign Minister in December said Sweden, which is at odds with Turkey over pro-Kurdish demonstrations in Stockholm and elsewhere, was not even “halfway” through fulfilling the commitments necessary to secure its support.
Edrogan has also provided a list of 120 people it wants extradited from Sweden, telling the Swedish Prime Minister, “You will extradite these terrorists if you really want to enter NATO. If you don’t extradite these terrorists, then sorry.”
Both Sweden and Finland broke their respective 200 and 100 years of military neutrality to apply for NATO membership in May in response to Russia’s invasion of its sovereign neighbor, Ukraine. Both nations must receive unanimous consensus from all 30 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s current member nations, including Turkey.
Unlike Sweden, Finland shares a border with Russia. In January, Finland’s Foreign Minister suggested that his country may consider joining NATO without neighboring Sweden if Turkey continues to block their joint bid. However, Pekka Haavisto walked it back a day later, claiming his comment had been “imprecise” and that Finland’s ambition to enter NATO jointly with Sweden remained unchanged.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has said it would be “unfortunate” if Finland entered NATO first.
Another NATO member, Hungary, has postponed its ratification date for both countries three times, but has not publicly raised notable objections to either joining the alliance.
Stoltenberg, meanwhile, has said he is “confident that both will be full members and are working hard to get both ratified as soon as possible.” It had been the plan for both Sweden and Finland to be welcomed as members at NATO’s next summit in Lithuania in July.