It’s Official: Sweden Joins NATO

( – Sweden has ended over two centuries of neutrality, which saw the Scandinavian country sit out both world wars and spend the Cold War focused on defending its own territory. Now, rattled by the threat of Russian aggression, it’s finally picked a side and joined NATO. Its membership has been delayed by opposition from existing members, but now Sweden is officially part of the alliance.

Sweden last fought a war in 1814, when King Charles XIII ordered the invasion and annexation of Norway. Since then it’s relied on heavily armed neutrality to keep it safe, refusing to take sides in either World War or the Cold War — although, in practice, it’s leaned west since the 1950s, with its military using NATO-standard equipment. After the end of the Cold War Swedish troops took part in NATO-led missions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the country remained officially neutral.

That changed in early 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine. In May that year, Sweden and fellow neutral Finland applied to join NATO. Finland’s membership application took less than a year, and the country became a member of the alliance on April 4, 2023. However, Sweden’s application ran into trouble.

For a country to join NATO, all existing members have to agree, and two of the 30 countries that make up the alliance objected to Sweden’s application. One of them was Hungary, whose objections were never very clear and may have been linked to disputes about EU funding. The other was Turkey, which complained that Sweden doesn’t extradite alleged Kurdish terrorists; one of these “terrorists” is a member of the Swedish parliament.

These roadblocks held up Sweden’s application for well over a year, but last December the US agreed to sell F-16 fighters to the Turkish Air Force and Sweden agreed to sell JAS 39 Gripen jets to Hungary. Both countries’ objections mysteriously disappeared, and they agreed to Sweden’s membership. On March 7, Sweden formally became a member of NATO, and the country’s flag will be hoisted outside NATO Headquarters in Brussels on March 11.

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