Sweden officially joins NATO, ending decades of post-World War II neutrality

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sweden formally joined on Thursday NATO as the 32nd member of the transatlantic military alliance, ending decades neutrality after the Second World War and centuries of broader non-alignment with the great powers, as security concerns in Europe have increased following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

President Joe Biden congratulated Sweden on its admission, saying it was a sign that Russia’s intervention in Ukraine had united rather than divided the alliance.

“When Putin launched his brutal war of aggression against the Ukrainian people, he thought he could weaken Europe and divide NATO,” Biden said in a statement, which he is expected to repeat later Thursday in his State of the Union address to the House of Representatives. Congress.

“Instead, in May 2022, Sweden and Finland – two of our closest partners, with two very capable militaries – made the historic decision to apply for full NATO membership,” Biden said. “With the addition of Sweden today, NATO stands more united, determined and dynamic than ever – now 32 countries strong.”

During a ceremony, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accepts the “instrument of accession” as Sweden formally joins the NATO alliance.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Foreign Minister Antony Blinken chaired a ceremony at which Sweden’s “instrument of accession” to the alliance was officially deposited at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“This is a historic moment for Sweden. It’s historic for the alliance. It is historic for the transatlantic relationship,” Blinken said. “Our NATO alliance is now stronger and bigger than ever.”

“Today is truly a historic day,” Kristersson said. “We are humbled, but also proud. We will meet the high expectations of all NATO allies. United we stand. Unity and solidarity will be Sweden’s guiding light

Later Thursday. Kristersson would visit the White House and be there a guest of honor at Biden State of the Union Address.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also described it as ‘a historic day’.

“Sweden will now take its rightful place at the NATO table, with an equal say in shaping NATO policies and decisions,” he said in a statement.

The Swedish flag will be raised outside the military organization’s headquarters in Brussels on Monday. Stoltenberg underlined that the Nordic country “now enjoys the protection granted under Article 5, the ultimate guarantee for the freedom and security of its allies.”

Article 5 of the NATO Treaty obliges all members to come to the aid of an ally whose territory or security is threatened. It has been activated only once – by the US after the attacks of September 11, 2001 – and is the collective security guarantee Sweden has sought since Russia invaded Ukraine.

“Sweden’s accession makes NATO stronger, Sweden more secure and the entire alliance more secure,” Stoltenberg said. He added that the move “demonstrates that NATO’s door remains open and that every nation has the right to choose its own path.”

Sweden, along with Finland, which joined NATO last year, have both abandoned the long-standing military neutrality that was a hallmark of the Nordic states’ foreign policy during the Cold War. Russia invaded Ukraine early 2022.

Biden was expected in his speech to Congress to use Sweden’s decision to join to step up calls for reluctant Republicans to approve stalled military aid to Ukraine as the war enters its third year.

Biden and his NATO colleagues have pledged that Ukraine will one day join as well.

Sweden’s membership was suspended due to objections from NATO members Turkey and Hungary. Turkey expressed concern that Sweden is harboring Kurdish groups it considers terrorists and not taking enough action, and Hungary’s populist President Viktor Orbán has shown pro-Russian sentiments and not shared the alliance’s determination to support Ukraine.

After months of delay, Turkey ratified Sweden’s admission earlier this year, and Hungary did so this week.

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Cook reported from Brussels. AP writer Jan M. Olsen contributed from Copenhagen, Denmark.

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