Erdoğan set to block Swedish and Finnish entry into NATO

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is set to block the Swedish and Finnish accession into NATO after saying on Friday that his country is “not favorable” toward this effort.

“We are following developments concerning Sweden and Finland carefully, but we are not of a favorable opinion,” Erdoğan told reporters.

The Turkish leader explained his opposition by citing Stockholm's alleged support for Kurdish militants and others whom Turkey considers to be terrorists. He also accused Greece, a fellow NATO member, of weaponising the alliance against Turkey.

He added that his country did not want a repeat of that “mistake.”

Meanwhile, a report by the Swedish government on the changed security environment facing the Nordic country after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine says Moscow would react negatively to Sweden joining NATO and launch several countermeasures.

The Swedish government’s security policy analysis, which will be used as a basis for Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s Cabinet to decide whether to seek membership in the Western military alliance, was presented to Swedish lawmakers Friday.

Sweden’s governing Social Democratic Party, led by Andersson, is expected to reveal its decision on Sunday.

The report pointed to NATO membership carrying a number of advantages for Sweden – above all the collective security provided by the 30-member military alliance. At the same time, it lists numerous tactics Russia is likely to take in retaliation.

These would include cyber and different kind of hybrid attacks, violations of Swedish airspace or territorial sea. Other aggressive behavior including strategic signaling with nuclear weapons are also conceivable from Moscow, the report said.

The report states that Russia’s war in Ukraine limits the possibilities for attacks on other countries but that Russia still has the capacity for a limited number of hostile measures against countries like Sweden.

The report does not make recommendations whether Sweden should join NATO or not.

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde told lawmakers at the Riksdagen legislature that “an armed attack on Sweden cannot be ruled out” and pointed to the security guarantee that NATO membership would offer.

The Finnish president and prime minister said on that Thursday they are in favor of rapidly applying for NATO membership, paving the country’s way to formally announce membership bid in the coming days.

Italy will fully support membership for the two Scandinavian countries, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Friday.

“We as Italy will be very happy to welcome these two countries in this great alliance that defends its member countries and... which has guaranteed peace for decades,” Mr Di Maio told reporters in Berlin.

Helsinki said on Thursday it would seek to join the US-led military alliance without delay and Stockholm is expected to follow its neighbour’s lead as early as Monday.

Elsewhere, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said that Russia lost “significant armoured manoeuvre elements” of at least one battalion tactical group as well as equipment used to deploy the makeshift floating bridge.

“Conducting river crossings in a contested environment is a highly risky maneuver and speaks to the pressure the Russian commanders are under to make progress in their operations in eastern Ukraine,” the Ministry of Defence said in its daily intelligence update.

Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin held a call with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on Friday, the first since the war broke out more than two months ago.

During the call, Austin appealed for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and stressed the importance of maintaining lines of communication, the Pentagon said.

It was the first time Mr Austin had spoken with Shoigu since 18 February, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

READ MORE: US Official: Greece plays decisive role in security of NATO’s southern wing, especially after Russian invasion.