Sweden joins Nato as Hungary agrees arms deal

Swedish soldiers
Swedish soldiers will now be part of the alliance - Johan Nilson/TT/AFP via Getty Images

Nato leaders hailed a historic moment for European security on Monday as Sweden joined the alliance, drawing to a close a two-year process marred by resistance from Hungary and Turkey.

The last hurdle stopping Sweden from joining Nato was removed after Hungary’s parliament approved the Nordic nation’s accession following a deal to sell Swedish fighter jets to Budapest.

Rishi Sunak said the moment marked “a historic day for our alliance”, while Emmanuel Macron, the French president, said it would “safeguard our collective security today and tomorrow”.

Kaja Kallas, the Estonian prime minister, whose country shares a land border with Russia, said Sweden’s accession “sends a signal to Russia: attempts to blackmail Nato away from its neighbourhood have failed”.

Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato Secretary General, also welcomed Hungary’s ratification.

Nearly two years ago, Sweden moved to end a policy of non-alignment, which had lasted through two world wars and the Cold War, after Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.

Hungary’s vote ended months of delay after a visit on Friday by Ulf Kristersson, the Swedish prime minister, during which the two countries signed an arms deal. It includes four Swedish-made JAS 39 Gripen jets being sent to Hungary, expanding its fleet to 14 jets.

Sweden’s Nato membership was supported by 188 lawmakers in the Hungarian parliament, with six against and no abstentions.

Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, has called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and an end to sanctions on the Kremlin, despite being a member of Nato and the EU. He had come under pressure from other Nato allies to pave the way for Sweden to join the alliance.

Turkey had also blocked Sweden’s accession until the US promised to sell F-16 jets to Ankara. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s president, had accused Stockholm of harbouring Kurdish militants.

He withdrew his Nato objections after 20 months when Sweden agreed to lift a ban on Turkish arms exports, changed its laws and agreed to work with Ankara on the Kurds issue.

Sweden had hoped to join Nato at the same time as neighbour Finland, which was also non-aligned until the invasion of Ukraine.

A Swedish Air Force Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter jet
Four Swedish-made JAS 39 Gripen jets will be sent to Hungary - Piroschka van de Wouw/Reuters

It was kept waiting because of Ankara and Budapest, which have warmer relations with Moscow than other Nato members, who swiftly backed Stockholm’s application.

Putin had demanded the two Nordic nations remain outside of the alliance before launching his war in February 2022.

There was no immediate response from the Kremlin to Sweden’s Nato accession as of Monday night. In a post on X, the Russian Embassy had hinted at military action against Sweden, as well as new member Finland, if it joined Nato.

“If anyone still believes that this will somehow improve Europe’s security, you can be sure that the new members of the hostile bloc will become a legitimate target for Russia’s retaliatory measures, including military ones,” the post said.

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