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June 28, 2022, 10:43 a.m. EDT

Optimism grows over breakthrough on Finland, Sweden NATO membership in Madrid

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By Barbara Kollmeyer

While few may remember what happened at last year’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit, 2022’s could be far more memorable.

Speculation was growing on Tuesday that the NATO gathering in sunny Madrid this week could see a further successful push for entrance of two new members — Finland and Sweden — aimed at bolstering the alliance following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde told the daily Svenska Dagbladet on Tuesday that her country was “prepared for the eventuality that something positive could happen today, but it might also take longer.” 

And Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said earlier on Tuesday in Helsinki that talks between diplomats had gone better and “understanding has somewhat increased on both sides.”

Ian Bremmer, the president and founder of Eurasia Group, a global political risk research and consulting firm, tweeted Tuesday that “a breakthrough” could happen soon:

Standing in the way of those Nordic countries joining — a unanimous vote is required by all NATO members — is Turkey, which is unhappy with alleged support from Finland and Sweden for Kurdish militants.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan, Swedish Prime Minister Andersson and NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg were expected to meet on Tuesday . Erdoğan also spoke to President Joe Biden earlier on Tuesday — the White House said they would indicate publicly and privately that the expansion should happen.

“We are confident they will ultimately be members of the alliance,” and Turkey’s concerns will be met, said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday aboard Air Force One en route to Madrid.

“We do not want empty words, we want results,” Erdogan told reporters before leaving for the Madrid summit on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, on Monday, Russia’s former president, Dmitry Medvedev said should the two countries be admitted to NATO, his country could beef up those borders and possibly install hypersonic missiles or warships with nuclear weapons “on their doorstep.”

The two countries applied to become NATO members in May, a big change from the past when military alliances were avoided. Finland stands between Russia on one side, where it shares a border of more than 800 miles and Sweden and Norway on the other.

In the runup to the NATO gathering and the Group of Seven summit that just wrapped, Russian launched a missile at the capital Kiev on Sunday and struck a crowded shopping mall in Ukraine’s central city of Kremenchuk on Monday.

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