By EMILY GOODIN, SENIOR U.S. POLITICAL REPORTER IN MADRID FOR DAILYMAIL.COM — 28 June 2022
> The leaders of Turkey, Sweden and Finland have signed a trilateral agreement that will clear the way for the two Nordic states to join NATO
> NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the deal
‘I am pleased to announce we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO,’ Stoltenberg said
> Turkey had objected to Finland and Sweden’s stance on Kurdish rebel groups that Turkey considers terrorists
> Biden meeting with Turkish president on Wednesday
The leaders of Turkey, Sweden and Finland have signed a trilateral agreement that will clear the way for the two Nordic states to join NATO and clears objections from Istanbul over the application.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the deal on Tuesday evening ahead of President Joe Biden’s scheduled meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday.
‘I am pleased to announce we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO,’ Stoltenberg said.
Turkey, Finland and Sweden have signed a memorandum that addresses Turkey’s concerns, including around arms exports and the fight against terrorism,’ he added.
Details will be worked out over then next could of days but the deal comes as Europe faces its worst security crisis in decades in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Turkey, meanwhile, said it had ‘got what it wanted’ including ‘full cooperation… in the fight against’ the rebel groups.
‘Our joint memorandum underscores the commitment of Finland, Sweden and Türkiye to extend their full support against threats to each other’s security,’ Finish President Sauli Niinistö said in a statement.
President Biden spoke with Erdogan on Tuesday morning.
A senior administration official said that call was for the ‘president to be able to talk directly with President Erdogan about the membership application to Finland and Sweden and to encourage him to seize this moment and get this done.’
The official said Biden made the call at the request of Sweden and Finland.
The official spoke to reporters on Tuesday night to describe President Biden’s role in the process and asked for anonymity to speak frankly.
The official said President Biden didn’t want to get in the ‘middle’ of talks but wanted to put the weight on the scale at the end to get it done.
‘We have been very studious, and rejecting the idea that the United States was wanting to play broker. We did not think that would be productive,’ the official said.
The Biden administration sees the deal as a win.
‘This obviously, is just a powerful shot in the arm from the point of view of allied unity and also, you know, a historic moment for the Alliance to traditionally neutral countries, choosing to sign up to NATO and being welcomed by NATO,’ the senior administration official said.
Politico: “Our joint memorandum underscores the commitment of Finland, Sweden and Türkiye to extend their full support against threats to each other’s security,” Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said in a statement. “Us becoming NATO allies will further strengthen this commitment.”
The deal has several components, the NATO chief said.
For starters, he said, Helsinki and Stockholm are committing “to fully support Türkiye against threats to its national security.”
Stoltenberg singled out the PKK, a Kurdish militant group that Turkey, the U.S. and the EU have classified as a terrorist organization. Both countries will work on “cracking down on PKK activities,” he added, and will enter “an agreement with Türkiye on extradition.”
Beyond the points Stoltenberg highlighted, the memorandum text revealed that Finland and Sweden had also agreed not to “not provide support” to YPG, a Kurdish militia in Syria, nor to the movement affiliated with the exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen. The U.S. has not placed the terrorist label on these entities.
And in a passage likely to stoke some controversy in Finland and Sweden, the memorandum pledges that the two countries “will address Turkiye’s pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects expeditiously and thoroughly,” clarifying that it must be done in line with European treaties.
As a result of Ankara’s move, NATO leaders gathering in Madrid can now make a formal decision on Wednesday to invite Finland and Sweden to join the alliance.
Then the process will move to each individual NATO country, where all 30 parliaments must ratify the expansion. Because of those logistics, Stoltenberg declined to put a specific timeline on the two countries formally joining the alliance.
Still, Stoltenberg conveyed confidence that NATO would soon grow and touted the “advanced, well-developed” military capabilities both countries would bring to the alliance.
Finland and Sweden are both strategically located for NATO. Finland shares a long border with Russia in the north and Sweden sits across the Baltic Sea from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — three countries pressing for more NATO support in the face of Russian threats.
“It will really strengthen our presence in that part of the world,” Stoltenberg said
Erdogan had cozied up with Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, who declared in 2019 that he was a “big fan” of Turkey’s strongman leader even though Ankara had just purchased weapons systems from Russia over the howls of a bipartisan group of lawmakers. Many in Washington condemned Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, which led to a Turkish onslaught of the Kurds, who fought alongside Americans against Islamic State fighters — but whom Erdogan has deemed “terrorists.”
Analysis: Is Russia now winning the war in Ukraine? Experts have their say
Sky News has heard from three defence experts on where things stand as Russian President Vladimir Putin closes in on his goal of taking Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
Emily Mee — Live blogger @EmilyMeeSky
Tuesday 28 June 2022
For months a narrative has built – and been fed by Western intelligence – that Russia is struggling to achieve its primary objectives in Ukraine.
We saw a complete withdrawal from the north and west after a failed push on Kyiv, and a refocusing on the Donbas in the east, where fighting has at times resembled a stalemate.
But now momentum, at least in the short term, appears to be with Vladimir Putin’s forces, according to analysts.
So is the war now heading in Russia’s favour?
Sir Richard Barrons, a former head of Joint Forces Command, told Sky News: “I think in the short term that is so.
“Russia will feel it’s sitting on now just a bit less than a quarter of Ukraine. It knows that Ukraine does not have the military capability to throw them out, and it will sense that there is some weariness in the world at bearing the consequences of this war.”
Over the last week, Ukrainian forces have retreated from Severodonetsk – the largest remaining part of the Luhansk region that was under Kyiv’s control. Luhansk is part of the Donbas.
Territory in the southern belt has also been consolidated – but while militarily there has been progress, Moscow is aware that “strategically” it will lose that war, says Sir Richard.
“It’s been isolated from the international community,” he said.
“It’s a pariah state. Its economy will shrink by maybe 15% this year. And if Ukraine is enabled to re-equip and re-arm, then Ukraine will reverse the military tide in due course, and start to throw the Russians out.
“And so for Russia, probably timing is everything here.”
Professor Michael Clarke answers your questions on the war in Ukraine:
He said the Russian capture of Severodonetsk is a “tangible victory” but a stiff fight awaits in nearby Lysychansk, the last major Luhansk city still held by Ukrainian troops.
“Russians should in no way think they’re going to advance further into the Donbas without paying a really heavy price in terms of the young people that they lose and the equipment that gets destroyed,” Sir Richard said.
“And they’ll know that their capacity to take all of the Donbas is going to be limited just because of the quality of the Ukrainian resistance.”
The importance of capturing Severodonetsk
Defence analyst Professor Michael Clarke also said the Russian capture of Severodonetsk is “symbolically significant”.
“It’s the city that gives Russia the northern part of the Donbas,” he said.
War at a ‘critical point‘
Former chief of the general staff General Lord Richard Dannatt also appeared on Sky News to offer his analysis of the war in Ukraine.
Asked about an attack on a shopping centre in Kremenchuk, which has killed at least 18 people, he said Russian President Vladimir Putin was a “terrorist”.
“This is a crucially critical point,” he said.
“There will come a time in the not too distant future when the Russians will have got control of those two Donbas provinces, which is what their strategic game currently is.
“Now, the West can tell the Russians they’ve got to go. The Russians will not go voluntarily and who is going to make them go?
“NATO is not going to launch an operation to throw them out. So there may be a new reality whereby part of sovereign Ukraine territory remains occupied by Russians for quite some time.