Turkey would not positively welcome Finland and Sweden joining the NATO alliance, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday, describing the initiative as a mistake.
“We do not have a positive opinion. Scandinavian countries are like a guest house for terrorist organizations,” Erdogan told reporters after Friday prayers in Istanbul, indicating that Turkey could use its status as a member of the Western military alliance to veto moves to admit the two countries.
Erdogan said Turkey’s former rulers “made a mistake” by giving a green light to Greece’s NATO membership in 1952.
“We, as Turkey, do not want to make a second mistake on this issue,” he stressed.
Turkey’s veto would satisfy Russia
A Turkish veto on the accession of the two Scandinavian counties would offer an unexpected propaganda victory for Russia, which has threatened NATO with retaliation if it goes ahead with the plan.
Finland’s president and prime minister have called for the country to apply for NATO membership “without delay” in a joint statement on Thursday.
Sauli Niinisto and Sanna Marin said they expected a decision in the next few days amid a surge in public support for NATO membership following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Finland will formally announce its decision on Sunday after it has been considered by parliament and other senior political figures. Sweden has said it will announce a similar decision on the same day.
Russia vows to retaliate if Finland and Sweden join NATO
Russia will respond to Finland joining NATO with “military-technical” retaliatory measures, Moscow warned Thursday.
“Finland’s accession to NATO will cause serious damage to bilateral Russian-Finnish relations,” the Russian foreign ministry wrote in a statement.
“Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop the threats to its national security that arise in this regard,” the Russian foreign ministry said.
The Kremlin has not clarified what specific measures it is considering, though officials have previously suggested Moscow would bolster its presence in the Baltic Sea—including with nuclear warheads.
Finland—which shares a 1,340-kilometer border with Russia—has long resisted entering NATO and has maintained its militarily non-aligned position since the end of World War II. However, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, support for NATO membership in Finland, as well as in Sweden, increased dramatically.
“Finland’s accession to NATO certainly threatens Russia’s security and will entail Russia elaborating measures to ensure its security,” Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said at a press conference Thursday, according to Russia’s state-owned RIA news agency.
RIA also reported that the Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council Dmitry Medvedev said increasing numbers of weapons sold to Ukraine from the West raise the chance of “fully-fledged nuclear war.”