Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to attend an informal meeting of foreign ministers in Norway next week, where he will urge Turkey and Hungary to ratify Sweden’s accession to NATO. This diplomatic effort comes in anticipation of the main NATO summit scheduled to take place in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July, as confirmed by the State Department. The aim is to enhance the security alliance by expanding its membership.
Blinken’s Visit to Oslo and the Context of Turkish Runoff Elections
Secretary Blinken’s travel to Oslo on May 31 follows Turkey’s recent runoff elections between incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his challenger, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Erdoğan, expected to secure another term in office, has persistently opposed Sweden’s NATO accession, citing concerns over Stockholm’s alleged support for Kurdish militant groups, whom he accuses of terrorism.
In a briefing with reporters on Friday, Dereck Hogan, the acting assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, stated, “We have engaged in extensive conversations with the Turkish Government, emphasizing our strong belief that Sweden is prepared for NATO membership.” Hogan added that ongoing discussions and engagements regarding Sweden’s accession will continue with the new Turkish government following the upcoming elections.
Hungary’s Objections and the Diplomatic Roadblock
While Turkey’s position on Sweden’s NATO accession has been a major obstacle, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has also hindered progress. Orban has expressed grievances, stating that Sweden has been critical of the erosion of the rule of law within Hungary. “The political relations between Hungary and Sweden are awfully wrong,” said Orban during a forum in Qatar on Tuesday. He further emphasized Hungary’s reluctance to import conflicts into NATO.
These holdouts from Turkey and Hungary have prevented Sweden from becoming a NATO member, despite the fact that 28 out of the 30 existing member nations have ratified the accession protocols. Sweden’s decision to pursue NATO membership, along with Finland’s, was prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Finland has already been granted accession to the alliance in April, reinforcing regional security and stability.
The Path Forward: Diplomatic Engagement and Ratification
Secretary Blinken’s visit to Norway aims to address the remaining concerns and encourage both Turkey and Hungary to ratify Sweden’s accession protocols before the Vilnius summit. By doing so, the NATO alliance would be further strengthened, fostering cooperation, collective defense, and diplomatic solutions to regional challenges. The negotiations and coordinated approach undertaken through bilateral discussions and international institutions are crucial in achieving the goal of inclusive security and global partnerships.