Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday submitted Sweden’s NATO bid to Turkey’s parliament, bringing Stockholm’s entrance into the Western military one step closer.
“The Protocol on Sweden’s NATO Accession was signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on October 23, 2023 and referred to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey,” the Turkish presidency wrote on X.
Turkey and Hungary are the only two NATO countries that have not approved Sweden’s membership. Hungary has delayed its ratification over Swedish criticism of the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, but Budapest is expected to approve Sweden’s NATO bid once it’s clear Turkey will, as it did with Finland’s membership.
Sweden and Finland both applied to join NATO in May 2022, but the process was delayed due to Turkey’s opposition over the Nordic nation’s alleged support for the PKK, a Kurdish militant group Turkey, the US, and the EU consider a terrorist organization.
Turkey’s main gripes were with Sweden, leading Ankara to ratify Finland’s membership first, which happened back in March. Finland’s entrance into NATO was significant because the country shares an over 800-mile border with Russia.
In recent weeks, Erdogan signaled he was still trying to get more leverage out of approving Sweden’s NATO bid, including a major F-16 purchase from the US. The F-16 deal is supported by the Biden administration but faced some opposition in Congress, mainly Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who recently stepped down as the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee over corruption charges.
Erdogan said in September that Turkey’s approval of Sweden’s NATO bid hinges on the F-16 deal, which is expected to be worth $20 billion. He said Menendez stepping down provided an opportunity to get the deal done.