Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country opposes Finland and Sweden joining the military alliance after both nations’ leaders announced they would pursue it.
“First of all, we would not say ‘yes’ to those who impose sanctions on Turkey to join NATO, a security organization, during this process,” Erdogan said Monday, according to state-run Anadolu news. The Turkish leader said that Sweden and Finland should not bother to send diplomats to Ankara in a bid to convince him, either.
Both Sweden and Finland have remained mostly neutral since the end of World War II. However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 has triggered leaders of both countries to increasingly maneuver toward NATO membership.
Turkish officials and Erdogan have previously said Turkey, a founding NATO member, opposes both joining because they allegedly house Kurdish individuals described as being members of terrorist groups. They said that Sweden and Finland harbor people linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) group and followers of Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating the 2016 coup attempt.
“They say they will come to Turkey on Monday. Will they come to persuade us? Excuse us, but they shouldn’t bother,” Erdogan told reporters. However, Helsinki and Stockholm “should not bother” coming to convince Turkey to join NATO.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also remarked on Sunday, “Countries supporting terrorism should not be allies in NATO,” according to Anadolu.
“We will inform NATO that we want to become a member of the alliance,” Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told lawmakers in a speech on Monday. “Sweden needs formal security guarantees that come with membership in NATO.”
Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Sunday that she won’t be deterred by Russian threats, while announcing her country’s bid to join the alliance.
“I think that within NATO, it gives us security when it comes to nuclear, because NATO also has nuclear weapons,” she said during a press conference.
Russia has long considered NATO a threat, with Russian President Vladimir Putin in February saying that it must carry out a “special military operation” in Ukraine because of NATO’s expansion. Over the years, Putin has said that NATO is not merely a defensive alliance but is attempting to put pressure on Moscow.
It comes as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) spoke in Stockholm on Monday, saying that Congress would approve Sweden joining the military bloc in the near future.
“We anticipate moving this rapid … in a more rapid fashion than past applications for NATO,” McConnell said. “We hope to approve it before August,” he said. “We are confident it will be approved.”
Reuters contributed to this report