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With Turkey continuing to block Sweden's bid to join NATO, Finland reversed its policy over the weekend and declared that it is ready to now join the military alliance without Sweden.
At the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Finnish Defense Minister Mikko Savola said that Finland would still prefer to join NATO with Sweden but noted that it will not hesitate to join the alliance if Turkey only approves Finland's membership.
When asked if Helsinki would delay its NATO membership to wait for Sweden, Savola said, "No, no. Then we will join." Savola noted that Sweden and Finland cooperate closely but also stated that the issue keeping Sweden from joining the alliance is in "Turkey's hands now."
On Friday, the day prior to Savola's comments, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said definitively, "If Turkey approves Finland's NATO application before Sweden's, Finland cannot do anything about it."
The comments from both the President and Defense Minister reflect a reversal of the policy that Finland has held since the summer regarding only joining the military alliance in a joint bid with Sweden. However, after a Quran-burning incident in Stockholm recently, Finland has changed its policy.
Relations between Turkey and Sweden hit a new low point last month when a person burned a copy of the Quran in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.
At the time, a Turkish Foreign Ministry statement said, "We condemn in the strongest possible terms the vile attack on our holy book."
The incident occurred after months of mounting pressure from Turkey in an attempt to get Sweden to crack down on Kurdish groups and anti-Erdogan protests. Stockholm refused to give in to Turkey's demands saying that to do so would be to violate Sweden's free speech laws. Tensions have continued to increase between the two countries as additional incidents occurred in the weeks following the burning of the Quran.
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