Sweden Set To Officially Join NATO

After more than a year of negotiations, Sweden is set to become the 32nd member of NATO.

The Nordic country broke with nearly 2 centuries of neutrality in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and formally applied for NATO membership in May of that year, alongside neighboring Finland, which also abandoned its longstanding policy of neutrality to join the alliance.

Joining NATO requires the unanimous consent of all current members – while most NATO nations were quick to approve the applications, Finland and Sweden both faced opposition from Hungary and Turkey. Pressure from the rest of the alliance and various concessions appear to have put those objections to rest. Finland formally joined NATO in April 2023. Turkey approved Sweden’s membership bid last month and on Monday the Hungarian parliament also approved it.

“The parliaments of all NATO member states have now voted in favor of Swedish accession to NATO.” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said. “Sweden stands ready to shoulder its responsibility for Euro-Atlantic security.”

Sweden is expected to officially join the organization in a ceremony sometime this week, after all the necessary paperwork has been finalized.Turkey previously accused the two Scandinavian nations of being soft on Kurdish militants, who have been in conflict with Turkey’s government for decades. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appears to have backed down in exchange for increased weapons sales to his country – including the transfer of American made F-16 fighter jets.

Hungary’s objections appear to have been a response to past Swedish criticism of the Hungarian government under Viktor Orbán. Hungary’s shift in policy also coincides with an arms deal – Hungary purchased four Swedish fighter jets days before ratifying its NATO bid.

 

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The expansion of NATO has been a major point of contention with Russia – one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stated reasons for invading Ukraine was to prevent the country from joining the Western military bloc and moving its forces to the Russian border. Finland, which, like Ukraine, was also once part of the Russian Empire, has an 830 mile long land border with Russia, and with the accession of Sweden and Finland the alliance will almost totally encircle the Baltic Sea, where the Russian port of St. Petersburg strategic exclave of Kaliningrad are located.

While Russia hasn’t taken direct military action against either nation, relations have cooled considerably between it and the formally neutral nations. Last year the Russian ambassador to Sweden said the country had become a “legitimate target for Russian retaliatory measures” and Finland closed its border with Russia.

“When it comes to Russia, the only thing we can expect is that they will not like that Sweden is becoming a NATO member,” Kristersson said. “What they do in addition to that, we cannot know. We are prepared for all sorts of things.”

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