22nd Sep 2023

Sweden accession deal is 'message' to Putin, Nato says

  • Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg (Photo:
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Russia cannot block Nato from taking in new members, the alliance has said, amid preparations for Sweden and, one day, Ukraine to join.

"This sends a very clear message to Russia, to [Russian] president [Vladimir] Putin, that Nato's door remains open, and that it is for Nato allies to decide on enlargement. Moscow, Putin doesn't have a veto on Nato enlargement," Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said at a summit in Vilnius on Tuesday (11 July).

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"I felt a kind of historic moment in the room," he said, recalling the warm welcome given to Sweden's prime minister in Lithuania.

Stoltenberg spoke after brokering a deal on Monday between Sweden and Turkey clearing the way for Swedish Nato accession.

"We look forward to welcoming Sweden as a full member of the alliance, based on the agreement I reached last night," he said.

Finland already joined Nato in April in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, even though one of Russia's stated reasons for its war was to stop Nato expansion.

And Ukraine is also being put on the path to membership after the war ends, with Nato allies agreeing to fast-track its accession procedure and launch a new diplomatic format, the Nato-Ukraine Council, to speed up talks.

Nato will "extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the alliance when allies agree and conditions are met", the summit conclusions said.

"Allies agreed that when there's a war going on, it's not the time for making Ukraine a full member of the alliance," Stoltenberg said.

Turkey and Hungary were the only Nato allies who haven't yet ratified Swedish accession.

But Turkey has now pledged to do so "as soon as possible" and Hungary has pledged to do the same.

Turkey previously ratified Finnish membership in a two-week procedure. Hungary can call a snap vote with 48 hours' notice.

The deal came in return for deeper Swedish and Nato cooperation with Turkey on counter-terrorism.

It also includes a US decision to sell F-16 fighter jets to Turkey and speeding up plans for an EU-Turkey free-trade and visa-free travel deal, according to diplomats.

"Sweden will actively support efforts to rein Türkiye's EU accession process, including modernisation of the EU-Türkiye customs union and visa liberalisation," Stoltenberg said.

For his part, Ukrainian president Volodomyr Zelensky, who also travelled to Vilnius, said on Tuesday it was "absurd" Kyiv wasn't given a clear timetable by Nato for when it might join.

"It seems there is no readiness, neither to invite Ukraine to Nato nor to make it a member of the alliance," he said.

But France and Germany sweetened the pill by pledging to deliver long-range cruise missiles and 65 more battle tanks and armoured vehicles to Kyiv.

"I have taken the decision to increase the delivery of arms and equipment to enable deep strikes by Ukraine whilst maintaining the clarity and coherence of our doctrine, that is to say to allow Ukraine to defend its own territory," french president Emmanuel Macron said, announcing the move.

British prime minister Rishi Sunak added: "We're with Ukraine for as long as it takes ... what Putin needs to understand is there's no point in waiting out the West."

"It is without doubt an alliance summit with a strong anti-Russian character. Russia is seen as an enemy, an adversary," Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said of the Vilnius event.

"This carries a lot of risks and the people who will make this decision should admit that," he added, on Nato's plan to speed up Ukraine's accession process.

Admitting Ukraine to Nato would be "potentially very dangerous for European security", he said.

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