Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod believes the NATO alliance will prove united on the potential accession of Finland and Sweden, despite signals from Turkey suggesting Ankara is not ready to support the historic expansion.
Kofod spoke with Newsweek on Saturday on the sidelines of the Lennart Meri Conference in Tallinn, Estonia. The annual event is focused on foreign and security policy issues from eastern and northern European perspectives, and this year is dominated by discussions of the war in Ukraine and NATO’s imminent expansion.
“With both Sweden and Finland, all the signals now coming from them look like they will apply for NATO membership, but we have to wait for a formal decision,” Kofod told Newsweek.
“But if that happens, there’s no doubt that for the Nordic region, and particularly the five Nordic countries, it will be a historical moment. We will increase our security fundamentally.”
NATO politicians, officials and commanders have broadly welcomed Finland’s decision earlier this week to seek full alliance membership. Sweden is expected to follow suit, with both nations likely joining the transatlantic bloc during or shortly before the NATO summit in Madrid at the end of June.
But Turkey, long involved in fierce internal NATO disputes, has expressed reservations. “We are currently following developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t feel positively about this,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on Friday.
“We don’t want to commit a mistake,” the president added. “Scandinavian countries are like guesthouses for terrorist organisations. To go even further, they have seats in their parliaments, too.”
Erdogan’s remarks referred to members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey considers terrorist organizations. The president also appeared to be referring to followers of the U.S.-based Muslim scholar Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara blames for the failed 2016 coup attempt.
Kofod told Newsweek he did not ultimately expect Turkey to block Finnish or Swedish membership. “I expect unity in NATO around this issue,” the foreign minister explained.
“In this fundamental security discussion, I think everybody can see the situation we are in, in Europe with the Russia question and and the whole philosophy that is behind it, the whole autocratic view of the world that we are now seeing coming from Russia and the expansionism,” Kofod said.
“I think that everybody sees [it is] the right thing to come together, all 30 member states of NATO—including Turkey.”
Newsweek has contacted the Turkish Foreign Ministry to request comment. Erdogan adviser and spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin appeared to soften the president’s line on Saturday, telling Reuters: “We are not closing the door. But we are basically raising this issue as a matter of national security for Turkey.”
Kofod said President Vladimir Putin‘s decision to invade Ukraine has proven a serious strategic blunder. Renewed Russian aggression has spurred the NATO expansion Moscow has railed against for so long, plus has prompted Western sanctions that threaten to cripple the Russian economy.
“I think this probably is the beginning of the end of that type of regime with that type of authoritarianism and disregard for international law, for its neighbors, expansionism with military force that we see in Ukraine taking place right now,” Kofod explained.
“I think, all of us in Europe and transatlanticly, we realize that and that’s why we’re coming together so strongly,” Kofod said.
The Kremlin has repeatedly threatened retaliation if Finland and Sweden join NATO. This week, Russian energy company RAO Nordic announced it would suspend electricity supply to Finland as of Sunday. National grid operator Fingrid said the shortfall would be made up with additional supply from Sweden and more power generated from inside Finland.
“The Kremlin and Putin and what we see today is the number one enemy of democracy and democratic values,” Kofod added. “This is a huge strategic mistake by the Putin regime.”
“We wanted to resolve any disputes peacefully, with diplomatic means,” Kofod said.
“We’ve offered time and time again, and we are still doing it. But he disregarded all offers for negotiations, for peaceful talks, and started an unprovoked illegal war with devastating destruction of population in Ukraine. And that has to come with the highest price possible.”
“We can stop him and also stop any precedent for that type of behavior from anywhere,” Kofod added.
Newsweek has contacted the Russian Foreign Ministry to request comment.