By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
MADRID/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Russian President Vladimir Putin woke up Wednesday with a nearly expanded NATO at Russia’s borders after Turkey lifted its objections for Finland and Sweden to join the defense bloc.
Putin had cited the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO as a reason for the Russian invasion of that nation before facing an enlarged military alliance, just from a different direction.
Turkey, a NATO state with veto power, backed Finland and Sweden’s membership as it “got what it wanted” from the Nordic countries after accusing them of supporting Kurdish “terrorists.”
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said the three countries’ leaders signed a joint agreement after talks on Tuesday.
While all member states still have to ratify their joining, the procedure was expected to be finalized within weeks. Finland and Sweden
are seen as western-leaning democracies with well-trained and well-equipped militaries operating in the often challenging conditions of Europe’s Far North.
Their accession, once it is complete, will bring the number of NATO countries bordering the Baltic Sea to eight – effectively turning it into a NATO lake and further isolating Russia.
It would double the alliance’s land border, as Finland has a border of 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) with Russia.
However, their membership was due to increased East-West tensions, and Fins still remember fighting the Moscow-led Soviet Union in World War Two when it incurred heavy losses.
Finland’s membership will bring NATO closer to Russia’s Kola Peninsula, a strategic landmass some 110 miles (176 kilometers) east of the border where Russia keeps ballistic missile submarines and stores nuclear warheads. Russia’s Northern Fleet, tasked with patrolling the Arctic, is also based on the peninsula.
The agreement came at the opening of a crucial summit dominated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. U.S. President Joe Biden and other NATO leaders arrived in Madrid for the gathering that will set the course of the alliance for the coming years and effectively lead to a new Cold War with Russia.
Besides adding to NATO’s reach, Finland and Sweden also committed to supporting Turkey against threats to its national security fully, NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, providing some details of the agreement.
“This includes further amending their domestic legislation, cracking down on P.K.K. activities, and entering into an agreement with Turkey on extradition,” he added. He referred to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which seeks an independent Kurdish state on territory partly within Turkey’s borders.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blocked the Nordic countries’ NATO bids amid concerns over Sweden’s longtime support for the P.K.K.
The group has reportedly attacked nonmilitary targets and killed civilians in Turkey and is outlawed in that country.
The P.K.K. is also designated by both the United States and the European Union as a terrorist organization.
It was not immediately clear, however, what impact the agreement could have on peaceful Kurdish political activists seeking asylum as they reportedly face persecution in autocratically-ruled Turkey.
Yet, Finland and Sweden were to receive an official NATO invitation on Wednesday.
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