War in Ukraine

US Senate pushing to make Finland a Nato member but Turkey resists

G-7 pledges unwavering support for Ukraine and EU commits $725m more in military aid

WASHINGTON • US senators yesterday promised to move quickly to bring Finland into Nato, after the country's leaders voiced support for joining the US-led military alliance in the face of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The Senate approves treaties and must consent to bringing new members into Nato.

Senator Bob Menendez, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the panel "is already working to ensure swift consideration" for both Finland and Sweden if either applies.

The committee's top Republican, Mr Jim Risch, called Finland's announcement "a tremendous step forward in the future of transatlantic security".

"The decision to move towards Nato membership is a serious one, and I extend my commitment to support Finland through this process," he wrote on Twitter.

But hopes of a quick accession were quickly thrown into doubt as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey did not have a "positive opinion" on Finland and Sweden joining Nato.

Mr Erdogan accused both countries of harbouring "terrorist organisations" in his unfavourable assessment of the membership bids.

Turkey has long accused Nordic countries, in particular Sweden - which has a strong Turkish immigrant community - of harbouring extremist Kurdish groups as well as supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based preacher wanted over a failed 2016 coup.

Membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation requires unanimous backing from all 30 member states.

Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto urged patience and called for a step-by-step approach in response to Turkish resistance to Finnish and Swedish Nato membership. "We need some patience in this type of process, it's not happening in one day... Let's take issues step-by-step," he said.

Germany said it welcomed Finland's decision. In a tweet, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Helsinki has Berlin's backing.

There was a similar reaction from France.

Ukraine's fate has been particularly disturbing for Finland to watch as it fought two wars with Russia between 1939 and 1944, repelling an attempted invasion but losing around 10 per cent of its territory in a peace agreement.

Meanwhile, Sweden's ruling Social Democrats are expected to decide tomorrow on whether to overturn decades of opposition to Nato membership, a move that would almost certainly lead to the country also asking to join the 30-nation military alliance.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday said he had agreed new deals with Sweden and Finland to bolster European security, pledging to support both countries' armed forces should they come under attack.

Mr Johnson signed the new declarations, described by Britain as "a step-change in defence and security cooperation", during visits to both Sweden and Finland.

"What it says is that in the event of a disaster, or in the event of an attack on either of us, then we will come to each other's assistance, including with military assistance," Mr Johnson said at a news conference in Helsinki on Wednesday.

Separately, foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G-7) have pledged unwavering support for Ukraine in its war with Russia, and the European Union promised to hike military support for Kyiv by more than half a billion dollars.

The foreign ministers met yesterday - the second day of a three-day meeting - in the German resort of Wangels, joined by their counterparts from Ukraine and Moldova.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the G-7 was "very strongly united" in its will to "continue in the long term to support Ukraine's fight for its sovereignty until... victory".

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc was pledging an extra US$520 million (S$725 million) in military aid.

The cash will raise the EU's total military aid for Ukraine to €2 billion (S$2.9 billion), he said.

"The recipe is clear - more of the same," Mr Borrell said.

"More pressure on Russia, with economic sanctions. Continue working on international isolation of Russia. Countering the disinformation about the consequences of the war... And presenting a united front to continue supporting Ukraine."

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also called for further support for Ukraine, saying: "It is very important at this time that we keep up the pressure on (President) Vladimir Putin by supplying more weapons to Ukraine, by increasing the sanctions."

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba praised the G-7 nations' resolve to help Kyiv but also urged them to go further.

"Today, I asked G-7 countries to adopt legislation and put in place all necessary procedures needed to seize Russian sovereign assets and give them to Ukraine to use this money to rebuild our country," he said.

Mr Kuleba also urged the EU to ensure that an embargo is placed on Russian oil, warning that an omission of the ban on the bloc's next package would mean its unity was "broken".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2022, with the headline US Senate pushing to make Finland a Nato member but Turkey resists. Subscribe