Türkiye and Hungary have yet to approve Sweden’s and Finland’s bids to join the US-led military bloc.
The administration of US President Joe Biden has left NATO allies Türkiye and Hungary off the invite list for next week’s Summit for Democracy, Foreign Policy magazine reported on Thursday, citing three US officials familiar with the decision.
The two countries were also snubbed from last year’s inaugural rendition of the summit, an event that, despite being held only twice, Biden has lauded as one of his signature foreign policy achievements.
A State Department official confirmed that all participants in the 2021 summit had received an invitation for this year’s event, plus some additions. However, he said, the Biden administration was “not interested in this event being seen as an all-encompassing judgment on the strength of another country’s democracy.”
Rob Berschinksi, senior director for human rights and democracy in the National Security Council, told al-Monitor that while Türkiye was “an important NATO ally of the United States and an incredibly important partner,” Washington had “been quite clear in terms of [its] assessment of the status of democracy and human rights within the country,” namely, that it was declining.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s announcement last week that the country would begin ratifying Finland’s membership in NATO but not Sweden’s likely contributed to the decision to leave it off the list a second time. While Erdogan has not ruled out admitting Sweden to the military alliance, he stressed that Stockholm’s refusal to turn over more than 210 alleged terrorists to Turkish custody was a deal-breaker.
Hungary, which Biden memorably denounced as “totalitarian” in 2020, has fallen into disfavor among NATO allies for its refusal to support the strictest sanctions the EU has attempted to deploy against the Russian oil and gas industry. With about 80% of its natural gas coming from Russia, Budapest has repeatedly pointed out that an embargo would hurt Hungary and other European nations much more than it would punish Moscow for the conflict in Ukraine.
The Hungarian prime minister’s office earlier this week reiterated calls for a ceasefire in Ukraine and condemned the UK’s decision to send depleted uranium ammunition to Kiev. The country’s opposition to allowing Ukraine into the EU will not change unless “basic human rights norms are complied with” regarding the use of EU languages in Ukraine, Gergely Gulyas, head of the PM’s office, told reporters on Thursday, though Hungary has expressed support for Finland and Sweden joining NATO.
The Summit for Democracy will take place from March 28-30 in Washington, as well as in partner countries Costa Rica, South Korea, and Zambia.