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Sweden Overcomes Last Obstacle to NATO Membership

After signing a defense deal with Sweden, Hungary finally ended its holdout and ratified its inclusion in NATO, making Sweden the alliance’s 32nd member.

Sweden is set to join NATO as Hungary ratified its inclusion in the military alliance. Hungary was the only remaining nation among the 31 member NATO states that had not ratified Sweden’s entry.

On Feb. 26, the Hungarian parliament approved Sweden joining NATO by a vote of 188-6, thus ending an almost two-year-long effort to get the Nordic nation into the group.

“Today is a historic day. The parliaments of all NATO member states have now voted in favour of Swedish accession to NATO. Sweden stands ready to shoulder its responsibility for Euro-Atlantic security,” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said in a Feb. 26 X post.
A flag-raising ceremony is expected to take place later this week at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels to formalize the inclusion. The ascension documents must be filed at the U.S. State Department, which acts as NATO’s depository.
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban had delayed the approval, citing Swedish politicians’ criticism of Hungary. He blamed them for souring relations and creating hesitancy among his party members to green-light Sweden’s NATO entry.
For years, the European Union has accused the Orban administration of cracking down on media freedom and individual rights for the benefit of the ruling government.

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“It’s not right for (Sweden and Finland) to ask us to take them on board while they’re spreading blatant lies about Hungary, about the rule of law in Hungary, about democracy, about life here,” Mr. Orban said last year.

“Can anyone want to be our ally in a military system while they’re shamelessly spreading lies about Hungary?”

The Hungarian Prime Minister eventually gave his nod to Sweden’s entry before this weekend after signing a defense deal.

“Important agreement today between Sweden and Hungary on the acquisition of four new Gripen fighter jets—a Swedish pride and one of the best systems in the world,” the Swedish Prime Minister said in a Feb. 23 X post.
Following the deal, Mr. Orban said that “to be a member of NATO together with another country means we are ready to die for each other,” according to AP.

“A deal on defense and military capacities helps to reconstruct the trust between the two countries.”

The Hungarian prime minister has close ties with Russia.

Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO in May 2022 after Russia invaded Ukraine. Finland formally joined the alliance in April last year.

Sweden and NATO

Sweden has long maintained a nonalignment policy, keeping itself out of military alliances for more than 200 years. However, Russia’s Ukraine invasion changed the country’s stance.

Public opinion, which had strongly opposed full membership of NATO, changed after the war began, with several polls showing a surge in support for joining the alliance.

While Sweden applied for NATO membership in 2022, its entry was delayed due to Turkey and Hungary refusing to ratify the inclusion.

Turkey put forward a set of demands for Sweden, including asking for a tougher stance against groups seen to be against Turkish interests. Sweden agreed to a few demands. In January, the Turkish government approved Sweden’s membership.

With Sweden in the fold, NATO nations will now surround the Baltic Sea, which is Russia’s maritime point of access to two of its regions—Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg.

Russia has sent mixed signals regarding Sweden’s and Finland’s entry into NATO. In 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow has “no problem” with both nations joining the group.
In March last year, however, Russia’s ambassador to Stockholm said that Nordic nations’ joining the military alliance would make them “a legitimate target for Russian retaliatory measures, including those of a military nature.”
Mr. Putin also warned in December that Finland joining NATO could potentially create problems between Moscow and Helsinki.
The NATO expansion to include Sweden is happening as the alliance has come under heavy criticism from former President Donald Trump. He chided many member states for not meeting their expected defense spending targets.

During a rally early this month, President Trump suggested that under his presidency, NATO nations that fail to fulfill their financial obligations toward the military alliance would not receive help from the United States even when attacked by Russia.

According to a 2023 NATO report, only seven of the 31 allies met the 2 percent GDP spending target on defense in 2022.

In a Feb. 13 post at Truth Social, the former president doubled down on his criticism of the military alliance.

“I MADE NATO STRONG, and even the RINOS and Radical Left Democrats admit that. When I told the 20 Countries that weren’t paying their fair share that they had to PAY UP, and said without doing that you will not have U.S. Military Protection, the money came rolling in. After so many years of the United States picking up the tab, it was a beautiful sight to see,” he said.

“But now, without me there to say YOU MUST PAY, they are at it again. We are into helping Ukraine for more than 100 Billion Dollars more than NATO. We have nobody that they respect, and they insist on paying far less than we do. Wrong, NATO HAS TO EQUALIZE, AND NOW. THEY WILL DO THAT IF PROPERLY ASKED. IF NOT, AMERICA FIRST! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.”

Sweden’s inclusion in NATO will boost the alliance’s defense in the region against Russian aggression. The country has committed to raise defense spending and meet the NATO target of 2 percent of GDP.

Even though it has not been a part of NATO, Swedish forces have participated in several joint exercises with the group over the years.

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