Turkey lifts veto on Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO

For weeks Turkey and Greece have been veto holders for Finnish and Swedish accession to NATO. Now Ankara has lifted its veto, putting an end to long disputes

Until recently, Finland has remained neutral and limitedly participated in NATO programs only in what concerned for example, “partnership for peace” programs. It has always been a Finnish choice to avoid provoking Russia by not participating in any military alliance that might be directed against it, with the Ukrainian war however, this has changed.

As NATO has an open door policy, meaning that anyone may join without any complications, Finnish accession to the alliance has never been an issue. The only limitation is that all member states must have to accept adhesion of new member unanimously. This also means that all countries could possibly have a veto power and they could possibly block the membership process.

Countries with such an interest are those that enjoy favourable relations with Russia or that are dependent on its energy. In the light of Russian threats to cut off all energy supplies, countries such as Hungary or Turkey may decide to halt the Finnish and Swedish membership process as a result of Russian coercion due to having a strong political leverage over energy issues.

The emblematic case is the one of Turkey, which could decide to veto Helsinki’s membership in NATO due to Helsinki’s support of the Kurdish minority whom it grants political asylum. Turkey considers these individuals as terrorists and thus has requested their extradition to Turkey. Until then, Ankara considers Finland to be a State sponsor of terrorism and on this basis it could veto its membership in NATO.

Another reason Turkey may exercise its veto power is tied to the possibility of acquiring NATO-grade armaments in exchange for Finnish accession to NATO. As a matter of fact, the United States has vetoed Turkey from buying many western weaponries such as F-35s fighters, Turkey could now use their veto power to renegotiate the armaments blockade and so far it has paid off as the United Kingdom has announced that it has lifted the embargo on defence exports towards Turkey.

In any case, a better equipped Turkey would mean a reinforced NATO member on the southern coast of the Black Sea, further consolidating security in the region and the possibility of having a better equipped defence of the Bosporus strait, further limiting Russian access to international waters. However, it would also mean that Turkey would be better equipped to carry out other parts of its political agenda such as the Kurdish issue, the Eastern Mediterranean and the border disputes with Greece.

Particularly on this point, like Turkey, Greece is a NATO member in possession of a veto power in the Finnish and Swedish accession to the alliance. Having its main antagonist, Turkey, in possession of advanced armaments could possibly imply that one of their uses could be against Greek territory itself. As such, Athens may be resolute in exercising itself a veto power, which would halt the Finnish and Swedish accession into the alliance so as to block Turkish strategy to renegotiate acquire western weaponry.


Finnish and Swedish accession to NATO would imply a greatly accrued geopolitical leverage the alliance would have as a whole. As a matter of fact, most international sea access points of western Russia would be NATO controlled, thus resulting in a limited access to the sea for Moscow. In addition, Russian nuclear infrastructure in the Kola Peninsula would be put under a security threat as from the Finnish territory it would be easily possible to sabotage the 700+ km supply chain connecting Murmansk with Saint Petersburg and Moscow, neutralizing Russian nuclear-readiness.

However, NATO membership is acquired only once all member States reach a consensus as to the accession of a new member. In this regard, many countries such as Hungary, Turkey and Greece may exercise their veto power and block the membership process. This could happen, respectively, due to energy dependency and favourable political relations with Russia; internal political reasons along with leveraging the possibility of acquiring advanced NATO-grade weaponry; and for national security reasons.

Most of these impediments could be overcome by last minute trading, perhaps in the next NATO summit in Madrid in the end of June but it remains to be seen on what terms. What remains clear is that Finland as a member State of NATO would be a major contributor rather than a major user of the alliance as Finnish armed forces are well equipped both from the armaments and infrastructural point of view and from the civilian point of view with a society that is well equipped in case of adverse situations deriving from war, such as the lack of food, medical and commodities supplies. As such, Finnish accession to NATO would substantially alter the security architecture especially if Sweden was to join the alliance as well.

However, it is unlikely that Finland will allow NATO bases on its territory in fear of further provoking Russia; the same may not hold true for Sweden. As for Russia, Finnish accession would mean that the border with NATO would be far closer, imposing a necessity to avoid the use of conventional weapons, while it might resort to hybrid warfare, such as economic or cyber retaliation to keep the Finnish border in check.

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