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Here's what you need to know about Sweden's bumpy road to NATO membership

Here's what you need to know about Sweden's bumpy road to NATO membership

 


STOCKHOLM Sweden's NATO candidacy, held up for almost two years, passed its final hurdle when Hungary gave the green light on Monday to admit the Nordic country into the alliance.

This ended more than 18 months late by the nationalist government in Budapest, which frustrated Hungary's allies.

All NATO member countries must give their approval before a new member can join the alliance. Hungary was the only one to resist.

Here's an overview of Sweden's complex journey to NATO membership.

WHY DOES SWEDEN WANT TO JOIN NATO?

Sweden has stayed away from military alliances for more than 200 years and has long ruled out seeking NATO membership. But after Full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia in February 2022, it abandoned its long-standing non-alignment policy almost overnight and decided to apply to join the alliance with neighboring Finland.

Sweden and Finland, which joins the military alliance last year had already established close ties with NATO after the end of the Cold War, but public opinion remained firmly against full membership until the war in Ukraine.

Non-alignment was seen as the best way to avoid tensions with Russia, their powerful neighbor in the Baltic Sea region. But Russian aggression has sparked a sea change in both countries, with polls showing a growing support for NATO membership.

The Finnish and Swedish political parties decided that they needed the security guarantees that only full membership in the US-led alliance would provide.

WHY DOES IT TAKE SO LONG?

While Finland became NATO's 31st member in April, Sweden's application was delayed. All alliance members except Turkey and Hungary gave a thumbs up.

On January 23, Turkish lawmakers voted in favor of Sweden joining NATO.

To allow Sweden to join, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan set a series of conditions, including a tougher stance towards groups that Turkey considers threats to its security, such as Kurdish militants and members of a network that she accuses of being responsible for the failure of the 2016 coup.

Although the Swedish government tried to appease Erdogan by lifting the arms embargo on Turkey and promising to cooperate in this area, fight against terrorismpublic demonstrations in Sweden by supporters of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and anti-Muslim activists. activists who burned the Koran complicated the situation.

Pressure by the United States and other NATO allies on Turkey to drop its objections to Sweden's membership appeared to have little effect until Erdogan declared at a NATO summit last year that he would send the documents to Parliament for approval. But the issue was delayed in Parliament until lawmakers finally held a vote on the issue and ratified Sweden's accession protocol. The Turkish the government has finalized the stage by publishing the measure in an official journal.

Today, the Hungarian parliament ratified Sweden's NATO membership, ending more than 18 months of delay by the nationalist government.

Initially, Hungary gave no clear reason for its delays and Prime Minister Viktor Orbn has long insisted his country would not be the last to give approval. But the tone towards Stockholm has hardened over the past year, with Hungary accusing Swedish politicians of telling blatant lies about the state of Hungarian democracy.

Orbn broke ranks with NATO allies by adopting a Position favorable to the Kremlin towards Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

WHAT WOULD SWEDEN BRING TO THE ALLIANCE?

Sweden's inclusion would leave the Baltic Sea nearly encircled by NATO countries, strengthening the alliance in this strategically important region. The Baltic Sea is Russia's maritime access point to the city of Saint Petersburg and the exclave of Kaliningrad.

Sweden's armed forces, although greatly reduced since the Cold War, are widely seen as a potential asset to NATO's collective defense in the region. The Swedes have a modern air force and navy and have pledged to increase defense spending to meet the NATO target of 2% of gross domestic product.

Like the Finns, Swedish forces have participated in joint exercises with NATO for years.

HOW DID RUSSIA REACT?

Not surprisingly, Moscow reacted negatively to Sweden and Finland's decision to abandon non-alignment and seek NATO membership, and warned of unspecified countermeasures .

Russia said the move had had a negative impact on the security situation in Northern Europe, which it said was previously one of the most stable regions in the world.

Earlier this year, Sweden's top military commander, General Micael Bydn, said all Swedes should mentally prepare for the possibility of war, and on February 19, Thomas Nilsson, head of the foreign intelligence service Swedish, MUST, said that “the situation continued to deteriorate”. deteriorate in 2023.

“If joining NATO, we must have the ability, through an alliance, to counter a revanchist and unpredictable Russia,” the agency said in its assessment.

Sweden and Finland have both warned of an increased risk of Russian interference and hybrid attacks.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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