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Biden to meet with Erdogan as Sweden and Finland close in on NATO membership

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 6/29/2022 Haisten Willis
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President Joe Biden was set for a tense negotiating session with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Spain on Wednesday, but the nature of the meeting shifted dramatically with the news that Turkey has dropped its opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO.

While there will still be plenty for the two leaders to discuss, not least of which is the war in Ukraine, the NATO news represents a big win for the United States, the White House, and the Biden administration.

LEADERS OF SWEDEN AND FINLAND HEAD TO WHITE HOUSE ON VERGE OF NATO MEMBERSHIP

“This is really good news for Biden and for the Biden administration, regardless of how much or little they did [behind the scenes], though we all assume they have done a great deal,” said American Enterprise Institute senior fellow Elisabeth Braw. “The meeting will be taking place in a completely new light now, a much friendlier environment.”

"I congratulate Turkey, Finland and Sweden on signing a trilateral memorandum, which paves the way for Allies to invite Finland and Sweden to join NATO at the Madrid Summit," Biden said in a statement Tuesday evening. "When I welcomed President Niinisto and Prime Minister Andersson to the White House last month, I told them that the United States strongly supports their membership. Finland and Sweden are strong democracies with highly capable militaries."

The face-to-face meeting is the first since Erdogan raised objections to Finnish and Swedish membership in the alliance and comes on the heels of separate efforts by Finland and Sweden to assuage the Turkish leader’s concerns. Every NATO member must approve the addition of a new country, so the two countries were left in limbo until the stalemate was resolved Tuesday. Biden and Erdogan spoke by phone earlier in the day.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said there was not yet a “fixed time or framework” for the in-person meeting and downplayed the notion that it would focus on Turkey’s objections to Finland and Sweden’s membership effort.

That almost certainly won't be the case now. But there will still be plenty for Erdogan and Biden to talk about, Braw says.

"It's safe to assume the U.S. had a part in this deal and that Turkey will get something from the U.S., so they will want to talk about that," she said. "They will also want to talk about Ukraine and how Turkey can help shorten this war. Turkey really is the NATO member state that's best positioned to take action."

Not only is Erdogan key in any dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but his country is also strategically located on the Black Sea, giving it the power to limit Russia's ability to conduct the war and possibly help Ukraine export grain that has been stuck in the country since the Russian invasion began.

The ascension of Sweden and Finland also means NATO is more geographically aligned in northern Europe and better positioned to protect the Baltic States. The news drew praise from liberals and conservatives alike, who pointed to Sweden and Finland's military might.

“Unlike other NATO free riders, Sweden and Finland possess robust military capabilities and have demonstrated decades of cooperation with the U.S.," said the Heritage Foundation's vice president for foreign policy and national security, James Carafano. "They will help advance U.S. interests by thwarting Russia and China’s growing influence, improving regional security, and making future conflict less likely.”

Erdogan had protested the two countries’ support for Kurdish militants that he calls “terrorist organizations” and a weapons embargo on Turkey. He repeated those concerns as recently as this week, saying he would provide documents and visuals on the groups, before the abrupt announcement that Turkey had dropped its opposition.

Biden met with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto at the White House in May. Erdogan is set to meet with them on Wednesday.

Experts at first doubted that Erdogan was sincere in these points and only wanted to extract concessions, though that view shifted somewhat as he persisted in raising them. That all went out the window on Tuesday afternoon.

"I look forward to working with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, our Allies, and with Congress to ensure that we can quickly welcome them into our Alliance," Biden said. "As we begin this historic NATO Summit in Madrid, our Alliance is stronger, more united and more resolute than ever."

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While he still faces economic headwinds and consistently low approval ratings, Biden now appears set to come home from Europe later this week with a major victory in his pocket.

"It's not just a breakthrough for Sweden and Finland — it's a fantastic breakthrough for NATO," said Braw. "It's incredibly good news for the alliance and for Erdogan, who will receive lots of appreciation and thanks for having lifted his block."

 

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Tags: NATO, News, White House, Biden Administration, War in Ukraine

Original Author: Haisten Willis

Original Location: Biden to meet with Erdogan as Sweden and Finland close in on NATO membership

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