The Finnish government is prepared to join NATO without Sweden, foreign and security policy sources have confirmed to the Iltalehti newspaper.
Both countries applied for membership in the defense alliance in May last year, but Finland is faring better in overcoming the stumbling block posed by Turkey, which has yet to ratify either country’s application.
Talks between Ankara and Stockholm have stalled due to longstanding concerns over Swedish support to anti-government groups deemed by Turkey to be terrorists. Tensions were inflamed further last month after the Swedish government sanctioned an anti-Islam protest outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm during which a copy of the Quran was burned, sparking outrage across the Islamic world.
“The Turks do not have a problem with Finland’s membership in NATO,” a foreign and security policy source told the Finnish newspaper on Monday.
“The facts should be acknowledged: We are Russia’s neighbor. Sweden’s geopolitical position is quite different from our position.”
“We are ready if Turkey only ratifies Finland’s membership,” the source added.
The notion of only Finland being successful was raised by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week when he told reporters, “If necessary, we can give a different response concerning Finland. Sweden will be shocked when we give a different response for Finland.”
Finland could join NATO but Sweden can’t, claims Erdoğan
The Turkish president suggested his country may green-light Finland’s NATO ambitions but told Sweden it must extradite “terrorists” back to Ankara before any talks can begin
Joining NATO independently of Sweden is favored among the Finnish electorate. According to a recent poll conducted by research company Taloustutkimus for the Ilta-Sanomat newspaper, 53 percent of respondents support joining the defense alliance regardless of whether Sweden’s bid gets unanimous ratification. Just 28 percent want Finland to wait for Sweden to get approval.
NATO membership is hugely popular within Finland, with 82 percent of respondents supporting joining the alliance, compared with 8 percent who oppose the plan.
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström is due to visit Finland on Tuesday to meet his counterpart, Pekka Haaviston, for further discussion on their membership bids.
Sweden hopes a new anti-terror law that will enter into force in June will sufficiently appease Turkey to sign off on its membership ambitions.