U.S. President Joe Biden thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for finally accepting Sweden’s entry to the NATO defense alliance.

“I want to thank you for your diplomacy and your courage to take that on. And I want to thank you for your leadership,” stated Biden.

Sweden and Finland, two affluent Nordic nations that previously embraced political neutrality, expressed interest in joining NATO following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

According to NATO regulations, new candidate countries need the approval of all existing NATO members. In March, the Turkish  Erdoğan government approved Finland’s NATO membership but articulated opposition to Sweden’s membership due to political considerations.

Turkey previously accused Sweden of offering asylum to members of the Kurdish Workers Party, the PKK, which Turkey views as a terrorist group. In addition,  Erdoğan decided to use Turkey’s NATO veto on Sweden to extract the maximum amount of benefits from Washington.

Turkey has demanded F-16 fighter jets to boost its aging air force fleet. While the Biden administration was previously skeptical, Washington now allegedly agrees to provide Turkey with the jets in return for Turkey accepting Sweden’s NATO membership.

Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security advisor, announced on Tuesday that Biden has “been clear and unequivocal for months that he’s supported the transfer of F-16s.”

“He has placed no caveats or conditions on that in his public and private comments over the past few months. And he intends to move forward with that transfer in consultation with Congress,” Sullivan added.

The United States supported Turkey’s NATO membership in 1952 in an effort to block Soviet influence during the height of the Cold War. At the time, a Western-oriented secular government led Turkey. Ironically,  Erdoğan’s Islamist government recently increased its cooperation with Russia amid growing Western-Russian tensions over the ongoing war in Ukraine.

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