Sweden Joins NATO As Hungary Removes Final Barrier For Ratification—What It Means For Russia And The War In Ukraine

Zinger Key Points
  • Sweden joins Norway and Finland in the alliance, giving NATO near-total control of Northern Europe and the Baltic Sea.
  • The long-awaited accession was made possible after Hungary's parliament voted to accept Sweden’s bid.

Sweden joins NATO after 200 years of neutrality, propelled by Russian aggression in Ukraine. Hungary's ratification lifted last hurdle.

After almost two years of uncertainty, Sweden officially became a NATO member on Thursday.

The Nordic nation now joins 29 other European members who conform to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization along with Canada and the U.S.

Following Hungary’s submission of the long-awaited documents, which removed the last obstacle to membership, Sweden’s ratification was finalized, The Guardian reported.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson signed the ratification documents in Washington, where he was also invited to attend President Joe Biden‘s State of the Unions address.

Sweden's inclusion in the military alliance marks the end of over 200 years of neutrality, and was propelled by Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Sweden and neighboring Finland submitted applications to join the alliance in May of that same year. Finland was admitted in April of last year, but Sweden's application was fraught with conflict and difficulties, as Turkey and Hungary blocked its accession.

Tensions with Turkey stemmed from Sweden's extremely-open freedom of expression laws. A series of Quran burnings in Stockholm, which were deemed legal by Swedish law, were strongly rejected by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, slowing down the process. 

Turkey finally ratified Sweden's request to join in January, but it wasn't until Hungary's parliament voted to ratify Sweden's bid that the final hurdle was removed.

Hungary's reasons for denying Sweden's inclusion were varied and often unspecified. The two countries had experienced bad relations after Stockholm criticized Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the current state of Hungarian democracy.

"Today is a truly historic day. Sweden is now a member of NATO. We are humble, but we are also proud. Unity and solidarity will be a guiding light. Sweden is now leaving 200 years of neutrality and military nonalignment behind, it is a major step but a very natural step," Kristersson said.

What This Means For Russia And The War In Ukraine

With Sweden on board, NATO closes a big gap in Scandinavia, gaining control of all the countries around the Baltic sea, with the exception ​​Kaliningrad, a small Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania, which is roughly the size of Connecticut.

One of Putin’s arguments for invading Ukraine was a fear that NATO would expand closer to its territory. Ironically, it was the invasion itself which pushed Finland and Sweden to bid for membership in fear of Russia’s expansive approach.

“Sweden is the most capable country to join NATO since its formation in the 1950’s” said geopolitical analyst Peter Zeihan.

Countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal which joined the alliance in the decades following its formation, as well as other joining after the fall of the communist block, can be referred to as “security consumers,” says Zeihan. These are countries with extreme geographic vulnerabilities and military capabilities below their actual needs.

Sweden, on the other hand, “has been a major military power for over half a millenia,” says Zeihan.

Sweden adds a strong naval power which is fully focused on the Baltic sea. Its closeness to Russia’s Northwestern territory puts it in a strategic position against much of the country’s second-strike capabilities, which are located there.

Zeihan is expecting Sweden to emerge as “one of the leading voices within the alliance itself on pretty much everything that matters with regards to the Ukraine war,” within the coming months.

“Sweden’s accession makes NATO stronger, Sweden safer, and the whole Alliance more secure,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on X.

Sweden has already announced plans to send troops to join a NATO post in Latvia, which shares a border with Russia, Janes reported.

Sweden adds around 60,000 new troops to the alliance, between active military personnel and reserve forces. It also carries strong equipment including 121 tanks, 210 aircrafts and 387 ships.

Yet the biggest effect of the ratification for Moscow comes in the form of a message. Sweden’s willingness to drop its traditional position of neutrality reaffirms Europe’s cohesion against the expansive intentions of Putin.

Now Read: Joe Biden’s Expensive Plans For Musk, Bezos And Gates: State Of The Union To Address Billionaire Tax Avoidance

Photo: Shutterstock

Market News and Data brought to you by Benzinga APIs
Posted In: NewsPoliticsGlobalTop StoriesNATOStories That MatterSwedenUlf Kristersson
Benzinga simplifies the market for smarter investing

Trade confidently with insights and alerts from analyst ratings, free reports and breaking news that affects the stocks you care about.

Join Now: Free!