Finland clears final hurdle for NATO membership, will be admitted by July

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Emin Sansar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Turkey's parliament on Thursday approved Finland's bid for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, clearing the final obstacle for the Nordic country to become NATO's 31st member. Hungary's legislature ratified Finland's application on Monday. Finland will be formally admitted to NATO at the alliance's next meeting in July, in Lithuania, but if Ankara gets the ratification paperwork to Washington in time, Helsinki "could participate as a full member in a NATO foreign ministers' meeting scheduled for next week in Brussels," The Wall Street Journal reports.

"This will make the whole NATO family stronger and safer," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted after Turkey's parliament unanimously endorsed Finland's accession.

The fate of Sweden's tandem application to join is still unclear, as both Turkey and Hungary have declined ratification for different reasons. NATO requires all members to approve any expansion. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who faces re-election in May, accuses Sweden of harboring Kurdish militants and allowing them to protest against Turkey in the streets of Stockholm; Hungary says Swedish politicians have made disparaging remarks about Hungary's degraded democracy and blames Stockholm for helping cut European Union funds to Budapest. Sweden said it still hopes to gain admission before the July meeting in Lithuania.

Sweden and Finland dropped their neutrality and applied for NATO membership together after Russia invaded Ukraine. Finland decoupled its application from Sweden in March after it became clear Turkey planned to stonewall Stockholm for at least a few more months. "There are certain things we expect of them," Edrogan said earlier this week. "They must be fulfilled first."

"The entrance of both Finland and Sweden would expand NATO's capacity by allowing it to treat a vast area spanning about a thousand miles from the Baltic Sea to the Arctic as part of a coherent area of operations," the Journal reports. Finland's inclusion alone will "add more than 800 miles to NATO's border with Russia and bring to the alliance one of Europe's best-defended and best-armed countries."

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