Sweden becomes NATO’s 32nd member as PM visits Washington

Sweden formally joined NATO in Washington on Thursday, two years after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forced the country to reconsider its national security policy and conclude that support for the alliance was the best guarantee of security for the Scandinavian country.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson handed the final documentation to the US government on Thursday, the final step in a lengthy process to secure the support of all members to join the military alliance.

“Good things come to those who wait,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said as he received Sweden’s accession papers from Kristersson.

Blinken said “everything changed” after Russia’s massive invasion of Ukraine, citing opinion polls showing a huge shift in Swedish public opinion on joining NATO.

“Swedes realized something very profound: that if Putin was willing to try to erase one neighboring country from the map, he might not stop there.”

For NATO, the accessions of Sweden and Finland – which share an 800-mile border with Russia – are the most important additions in decades. It is also a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has wanted to prevent any further strengthening of the alliance.

Sweden will benefit from the alliance’s common defense guarantee, under which an attack on one member is considered an attack on all.

“Sweden is a safer country today than yesterday. We have allies. We have support,” Kristersson said in an address to the Swedish nation from Washington. “We have taken out insurance with the Western Defense Alliance.”

Hakan Yucel, 54, an IT worker in the Swedish capital, said of the entry: “We used to be outside and feel a bit alone. … I think the threat from Russia will now be much less.”

President Joe Biden said in a statement that the addition of Sweden has made NATO “more united, determined and dynamic than ever,” adding that the addition of Sweden and Finland to the alliance marked the addition of “two highly capable militaries ‘.

Sweden adds advanced submarines and a significant fleet of domestically produced Gripen fighter jets to NATO forces, and is a crucial link between the Atlantic Ocean and the Baltic Sea.

“Sweden’s accession makes NATO stronger, Sweden more secure and the entire Alliance more secure,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.

Russia has threatened to take unspecified “political and military-technical countermeasures” in response to the Swedish action.

“Joining NATO is basically like buying insurance, at least as long as the United States is actually willing to be the insurance company,” said Barbara Kunz, a researcher at defense think tank SIPRI.

Although Stockholm has moved closer to NATO over the past two decades, its membership marks a clear break from the past, when Sweden avoided military alliances for more than two hundred years and took a neutral stance in times of war.

After World War II, the country built an international reputation as a champion of human rights, and since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, successive governments have cut military spending.

As recently as 2021, the Defense Minister had rejected NATO membership, with the then Social Democratic government, together with neighboring Finland, applying just a few months later.

“I think Sweden really had to take a stand and I’m glad that we actually did that and that we are protected by NATO, because tension with Russia has been increasing for a few years,” said Carl Fredrik Aspegren, 28, a student in Stockholm.

While Finland joined the alliance last year, Sweden waited while Turkey and Hungary, both of which have cordial relations with Russia, postponed ratification of Sweden’s accession.

Turkey approved Sweden’s application in January.

Hungary postponed its decision on Sweden’s accession until Kristersson made a goodwill visit to Budapest on February 23, where the two countries agreed to an agreement on fighter jets.

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