Sweden officially joins NATO as PM Kristersson visits US – DW – 03/07/2024

After two centuries of neutrality and two years of diplomacy, Sweden officially became the 32nd member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on Thursday, the US government said.

Both the Swedish and US governments had indicated earlier in the day that the process would be completed on Thursday during Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson’s visit to Washington.

“We will strive for unity, solidarity and burden-sharing, and will fully adhere to the values ​​of the Washington Treaty: freedom, democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. Stronger together,” said the Swedish Prime Minister’s official report in a post on X.

US President Joe Biden said he was “honored to welcome Sweden” as the alliance’s newest member, adding that transatlantic security was stronger than ever.

A ‘historic’ day for the NATO alliance

Sweden’s accession to NATO became effective after Sweden’s “instrument of accession” to the alliance was officially deposited with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“This is a historic moment for Sweden. It is historic for the alliance. It is history for the transatlantic relationship,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at the accession ceremony.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wrote on X that “Sweden’s accession makes NATO stronger, Sweden more secure and the entire Alliance more secure.”

“Today is a truly historic day. Sweden is now a member of NATO,” Kristersson said. “We will defend freedom together with the countries closest to us – in geography, culture and values,” he added.

The Swedish flag is then expected to be raised at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday.

NATO is expanding in the shadow of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Russian leader Vladimir Putin has justified his war in Ukraine by claiming that NATO had promised Russia it would not expand after the Cold War. There has never been such an agreement made.

Blinken said few had previously expected Sweden and Finland to join the alliance before Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Finland joined NATO last year.

There is “no clearer example than today of the strategic debacle that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has become for Russia,” Blinken said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sweden is now “better protected from Russian evil.” Ukraine has applied to join NATO in 2022, but a timeline for its membership has yet to be determined.

Later in the evening, Biden will deliver the final State of the Union address of his term, with Kristersson joining First Lady Jill Biden in the conference room.

Sweden puts an end to two centuries of non-alignment

Although Sweden is already militarily intertwined with the US and members of the European Union, it has not been involved in a war since the Napoleonic conflicts of the early 19th century and remained neutral in both world wars in the 20th century.

However, in the wake of Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Sweden joined its Nordic neighbors Finland and applied for NATO membership.

While Finland, which shares a 1,340 kilometer border with Russia, was welcomed into the alliance in April 2023, Sweden’s candidacy stalled due to a diplomatic dispute with NATO member Turkey, which demanded that Stockholm put pressure on the people of Sweden . , often Kurds, who are considered militants by Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan later demanded action after protesters took advantage of Sweden’s liberal freedom of expression laws to burn copies of the Quran.

Further obstacles have been thrown up by Hungary, where nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán boasts of his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and has regularly been a thorn in the side of Western efforts to support Ukraine.

NATO exercise: Sweden already involved

NATO’s Nordic Response exercise is currently taking place in northern Sweden, Norway and Finland, involving 20,000 NATO troops from 13 countries, including Swedish Marines.

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, a top ally of President Vladimir Putin, said Thursday that the exercise resembled a rehearsal for an armed confrontation with Russia. According to the Interfax news agency, he called it “destabilizing” and said it “increased tensions.”

As a NATO member, Sweden, with its advanced submarines and Gripen fighter jets, will be a crucial link between the Atlantic and Baltic states.

A recent poll by Swedish broadcaster SR found that most Swedes believe the country has made too many sacrifices to join NATO, although more than three-quarters believed NATO would increase the country’s security.

Russia said it would use unspecified military techniques and other countermeasures in response to Sweden’s entry into the alliance.

Sweden and Finland join NATO: strategic defeat for Russia?

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rm, mf/msh (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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