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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at a meeting at the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara on January 18. (Breathe Altan/AFP/Getty Images/FILE)

When Sweden and Finland announced their intention to join NATO last May, it was seen by many as a poke in Russia’s eyes and evidence of a shift in European thinking. Historically, both countries had pledged not to join NATO so as not to provoke Moscow, but the invasion of Ukraine changed that.

Both countries – along with the majority of NATO allies – would like to see them formally join the alliance at a NATO summit on July 11. However, there is a significant hurdle in the way of making this a reality: Turkey has yet to give the plan its formal and official blessing.

Hungary has also failed to ratify Scandinavia’s accession, further muddying the waters.

Officially, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan objects to the membership of Sweden and Finland on security grounds, claiming that both countries harbor militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a designated terror group in Turkey, Sweden, the US and Europe.

But Gonul Tol of the Middle East Institute’s Turkey Program believes there are other reasons why Erdogan doesn’t want to upset Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Russia has been an economic lifeline for Turkey after other nations imposed sanctions on their activities in Syria, their military cooperation with Russia and other hostile activities,” Tol explained.

NATO diplomats are divided over whether they think Turkey will concede before the July summit.

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