Finland and Sweden appear set to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), with no “unsurmountable problems” in the way, according to a German government source in communication with Reuters.
Per the source, German officials are “very confident” in the eventual striking of a deal for Finland and Sweden to join NATO. “As nice as it would be to announce concrete steps… it would not be a catastrophe if it needed a few more weeks… What is decisive from our point of view is there are no unsurmountable problems,” as the source put it to Reuters. That time frame — a few more weeks — would put a future deal after a Madrid NATO summit slated for the end of this month.
The unanimous agreement of NATO members is required for a new country to join the alliance, and Turkey — a member of NATO — has expressed opposition to the NATO membership of Sweden and Finland in connection to apparently alleged support on the countries’ parts for the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is classified as a terror group by authorities including the U.S. government. Sweden and Finland also designate the PKK as a terror group, but, as summarized by CNBC, “Turkey says that Sweden has supported PKK members and provides protection for them.” Hussein Ibish, who is a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in D.C., told CNBC: “Turkey basically classifies all Kurdish groups it strongly dislikes as PKK front organizations. That includes many non-PKK Kurdish entities and organizations in and from Turkey itself, but also the Western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Syria and a number of Iraqi Kurdish groups as well.”
Russian leadership remains broadly opposed to the expansion of NATO, so Sweden and Finland joining it would mark another strategic setback for Putin. One of the major benefits of membership in NATO is that countries in the alliance agree to help defend fellow members if they’re attacked. Thus, Russian forces — or troops from any other country — couldn’t attack a member without sparking a military escalation involving the United States, and as Russian soldiers continue their assault on Ukraine, the continuing threat of authoritarian aggression is only more clear. President Joe Biden, besides reiterating the commitment of the U.S. to supporting Ukrainians’ efforts to defend themselves, has also reiterated that he’s committed to NATO — but Trump has, well, indicated exactly the opposite. If he were to run again and win, that could possibly put the security of the alliance in danger, and what would Russian leaders do if they suddenly felt they had a free pass to operate in certain areas without involvement by the U.S.?
Meanwhile, officials in Lithuania indicated “a ban on the transit through their territory to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad of goods that are subject to EU sanctions was to take effect from Saturday,” Reuters reported. Kaliningrad is Russian territory between Poland and Lithuania; it’s separate from the rest of the country, with no land connection, and rail and gas pipelines running through Lithuania are ordinarily used to supply the territory with supplies. Anton Alikhanov, governor of Kaliningrad, claimed “our ferries will handle all the cargo,” appearing to indicate the stance from Russian leadership is that ships can effectively take over the provision of supplies. Some 50 percent of what’s ordinarily imported by Kaliningrad is covered by European Union sanctions and therefore apparently will no longer be available via pathways through Lithuania.