U.S. Pushes for Sweden’s Admission to NATO, as Turkey Continues to Balk
WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – Following an extended holiday weekend that included America’s July 4 Independence Day, U.S. President Joe Biden met on Wednesday with Sweden’s visiting Prime Minister, Ulf Kristersson, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by telephone with Turkey’s new Foreign Minister, Hakan Fidan.
The discussions took place in advance of a NATO summit that will be held from Jul 11-12 in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, and they dealt with that meeting.
Washington versus Ankara
In both Biden’s meeting with Kristersson and Blinken’s phone call with Fidan, the administration had a clear message: we want NATO to approve Sweden’s application to join the defense organization.
However, as The New York Times reported, “The problem” facing the American and Swedish governments “is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.” New members joining NATO must be approved unanimously, and Erdogan remains opposed to Swedish membership.
Indeed, Erdogan’s rejection of Swedish membership was given a significant boost last week, when a 37 year old Iraqi refugee, Salwan Momika, burnt pages of the Quran outside Stockholm’s central mosque.
According to the Associated Press, Momika, a Christian, previously fought in a Christian unit of the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces.
Earlier this year, in January, Sweden experienced another Quran-burning. That was conducted outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm by a far-right politician, Rasmus Paludan.
Erdogan responded by asserting that he would reject Sweden’s bid for NATO membership. “Those who allow such blasphemy in front of our embassy can no longer expect our support for their NATO membership,” the Turkish President vowed.
The Foreign Minister of Finland, which had applied for NATO membership at the same time as Sweden, had a different take. Pekka Haavisto suggested that Paludan had been put up to such action by some party that wanted to keep Sweden out of NATO, as he pointed to Russia.
That event, Haavisto told Finnish television, “raises the question of whether some third party is seeking to stir the pot — for example Russia — or some other party opposing the NATO membership and looking to provoke to achieve that.”
The same would apply here, raising the question of whether Momika had any ties to Moscow, directly or indirectly, perhaps through Iran.
Strong U.S. Support for Sweden’s NATO Membership
In welcoming the Swedish Prime Minister to the White House, Biden affirmed, “The United States fully, fully supports Sweden’s membership in NATO,” and “the bottom line is simple: Sweden is going to make our alliance stronger.”
Asked by journalists, “How important is it for the U.S. and NATO to have Sweden as [a] new member?,” Biden replied, “Very important.”
But then when asked, “How confident are you that this is going to be a reality soon?,” Biden declined to answer, saying instead, “Come on, guys,” and ending his brief press appearance, alongside the Swedish Prime Minister.
In his phone call with Turkey’s new Foreign Minister on Wednesday, Blinken previewed “the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius,” according to a read-out of their discussion provided by State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller.
“Blinken stressed the importance of NATO unity in such a critical time and encouraged Türkiye’s support for Sweden to join the NATO alliance now,” it stated.