Sweden finally becomes full NATO member after two-year wait following Russia's invasion of Ukraine

7 March 2024, 17:16

Sweden has finally joined Nato after a lengthy two-year wait following its application to join the military alliance in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine
Sweden has finally joined Nato after a lengthy two-year wait following its application to join the military alliance in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

Sweden has finally joined Nato after a lengthy two-year wait following its application to join the military alliance in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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The Scandinavian country has ended decades of post-Second World War neutrality as concerns about Russian aggression spiked.

Sweden is the 32nd member of the transatlantic military alliance, whose next-door neighbours Norway and Finland share a border with the aggressor nation.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Secretary of State Antony Blinken presided at a ceremony in which Sweden's "instrument of accession" to the alliance was officially deposited at the State Department.

"This is a historic moment for Sweden. It's historic for alliance. It's history for the transatlantic relationship," Mr Blinken said.

"Our Nato alliance is now stronger, larger than it's ever been."

The West's defence alliance now rings the entire Baltic Sea, which is a major trading route for Russia and is home to one of its prized fleets.

“The Baltic Sea becomes a Nato lake,” Latvia's foreign minister and self-declared candidate to lead Nato Krišjānis Kariņš declared.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken stands with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson before presenting Sweden's NATO Instruments of Accession, Thursday
Secretary of State Antony Blinken stands with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson before presenting Sweden's NATO Instruments of Accession, Thursday. Picture: Alamy

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Mr Kristersson is expected to visit the White House later on Thursday where he will be a guest of honour at President Joe Biden's State of the Union address to Congress.

The White House said that having Sweden as a Nato ally "will make the United States and our allies even safer".

"Nato is the most powerful defensive alliance in the history of the world, and it is as critical today to ensuring the security of our citizens as it was 75 years ago when our alliance was founded out of the wreckage of World War Two," a spokesperson said.

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

Mr Biden, in his speech to Congress, is expected to cite Sweden's accession to Nato as evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin's intent to divide and weaken the alliance has failed as a direct result of the Ukraine invasion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sits in a cockpit of a flight simulator at the Krasnodar Higher Military Aviation School of Pilots named in Krasnodar, Thursday
Russian President Vladimir Putin sits in a cockpit of a flight simulator at the Krasnodar Higher Military Aviation School of Pilots named in Krasnodar, Thursday. Picture: Alamy

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And the President is expected to use Sweden's decision to join to step up calls for reluctant Republicans to approved stalled military assistance to Ukraine as the war enters its third year.

Sweden's membership had been held up due to objections by Nato members Turkey and Hungary.

Turkey expressed concern that Sweden was harbouring and not taking enough action against Kurdish groups that it regards as terrorists, and Hungary's populist President Viktor Orban has shown pro-Russian sentiment 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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