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Turkey Will Eventually Relent on Finland and Sweden Joining NATO, Says Former Finnish PM

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  • Former Finnish prime minister Alexander Stubb said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will remember that both Finland and Sweden had been "avid supporters" of Turkey's bid to join the European Union.
  • Finland and Sweden would take a "Nordic profile" inside NATO, he said.
  • Stubb also said the war will drag on until Russian president Vladimir Putin tells the Russians a "tactical truth."

Finland's former prime minister is confident that Turkey's opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO will be diplomatically "sorted out."

"I'm sure this will get ironed out," Alexander Stubb told CNBC's Capital Connection on Wednesday, adding that both Finland and Sweden have been "avid supporters" of Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

"I imagine that there'll be some backroom diplomacy in the next few days ... just from my experience, these types of things get sorted out," he said.

All member states have to agree before new members can join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has opposed the membership of Sweden and Finland, citing concerns over the two nations' support to separatist Kurdish organizations inside Turkey. Turkey refers to members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) as "terrorists."

The two Nordic nations formally applied to join the 30-member-strong NATO on Wednesday, a significant change in their security stance as a direct result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February. 

Both Sweden and Finland have had a long modern history of military nonalignment since the end of the Second World War and through the Cold War between the West and the erstwhile Soviet Union. 

Leaders of both countries will be traveling to Washington DC to meet U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday.

In 1990, the year after the Berlin Wall fell, Russia dominated the Soviet Union and six allied Warsaw Pact countries.
Bryn Bache | CNBC
In 1990, the year after the Berlin Wall fell, Russia dominated the Soviet Union and six allied Warsaw Pact countries.

Stubb pointed out that it was during Finland's EU presidency in 1999 that negotiations for Turkey's accession to the EU accession were opened. "That was a historic moment. And I'm sure that President Erdogan will remember that," he said.

Russia's 'moderate' reaction

Stubb — who is now professor and director Professor of the School of Transnational Governance at the European University Institute in Finland — described the Russian reaction to the proposal as "quite moderate." 

"I think the reason is quite clear. Russia has not seen Finnish accession to NATO as a military threat or security threat," he said.

As of 2022, NATO has expanded to let in three former Soviet states and all of the former Warsaw Pact countries.
Bryn Bache | CNBC
As of 2022, NATO has expanded to let in three former Soviet states and all of the former Warsaw Pact countries.

"Iceland, Norway and Denmark, three Nordic states, have been members of the alliance since 1949. So the [Russian] reaction was moderate and will continue to be moderate. We do not join NATO against anyone, we join it for ourselves. For us, foreign security policy is not a zero-sum game," he added.

The former Finnish prime minister went on to describe reliance on Russian energy as a European strategic mistake.

"The idea was that if you integrate, if you cooperate, if you create a class dependency, you actually get closer." 

"[But] now, we've actually seen that energy can be used as a weapon," he said, adding that he was surprised by the speed, unity and efficiency of the EU's sanctions against Russia.

Russian embargos

Although the oil embargo against Russia is taking some time, Stubb predicted that an embargo on gas would follow.

"We will see a situation where Europe will decouple itself completely from Russian energy," Stubb said. 

The former Finnish prime minister said the Ukraine war was about Russian President Vladimir Putin's legacy.

"The stakes are too high. I just don't see an end to it. This is going to be a conflict that lasts for quite a long time," he said, implying that Putin needed a semblance of victory to show his people. 

"In the Russian language, you have two words for truth. One of them is 'tactical truth.' That means you can lie, and everyone understands that [it is a lie]," Stubb said.

"So I hope that Putin will come out at some stage and lie that he won the war and achieved his goals."

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