Explained: Sweden state’s NATO bid after Turkey’s nod

Experts believe that Sweden’s entry into NATO provides better security to the Baltic states.

Stockholm, Sweden:

After months of impasse, Turkey’s president has approved Sweden’s NATO membership, paving the way for the Nordic country to join the security alliance with its neighbor Finland.

Here’s the current state of Sweden’s bid, which was sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

When will Sweden join NATO?

While President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s green signal was significant, Turkey’s parliament still needs to ratify accession.

When the agreement between Sweden, Turkey and NATO was announced on Monday, no exact date was given for the vote.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters “as soon as possible”.

The Turkish parliament ends on July 18, according to the official timetable, and is not expected to resume its session until September.

Hungary, the other remaining member of NATO’s 31 allies, which has yet to ratify Sweden’s entry, has made it clear it will not delay the issue any further.

“The approval is only a technical question,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Tuesday.

Stockholm remained alert. Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Christerson hailed the agreement as a “good day” for his country, but refrained from any victory celebrations.

After the agreement was announced in Vilnius, “It was not really a place to celebrate much. But we gathered the whole team in a conference room and drank beer”, he told Swedish radio on Tuesday morning.

Once the parliaments of Turkey and Hungary ratify Sweden’s bid, Stockholm can immediately join the alliance.

What does Sweden offer to NATO?

By joining NATO, Sweden, with its population of 10.5 million, is ending an era of more than two centuries of staying out of military alliances, even though its neutrality formally ended in the 1990s.

While the country drastically cut military spending after the end of the Cold War, Sweden reversed course after Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014 and, among other things, reinstated compulsory military service.

Its armed forces have state-of-the-art equipment such as dozens of fighter aircraft and five submarines.

Experts believe Sweden’s entry into the alliance with Finland, which took effect in early April, provides better protection to the Baltic states, the former Soviet republics on NATO’s northeastern flank.

By joining, Sweden avoided becoming the only country bordering the Baltic Sea other than Russia that is not a member of NATO.

The Swedish defense industry, with majors such as Saab and the Bofors Group, is expected to be an asset to the alliance.

What do Swedes think about joining NATO?

Swedish public support for joining the coalition, which increased following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, remains overwhelming.

According to recent polls, about two-thirds of Swedes are still in favor of it.

“It feels good that we are joining NATO, we are welcome there and we have a united front against Russia,” Stockholm resident Sarah Lindblom, 30, told AFP.

“It’s not completely safe because we’re not actually members of it. So it feels good,” said Camilla Hire-Salakka, a 52-year-old business consultant.

But the geopolitical talks surrounding accession with Turkey’s Erdogan and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban have also raised unease about the risk of Sweden compromising its status as a “moral superpower”.

“It’s difficult, I don’t think Swedish politicians were ready to face Turkey like this,” said 67-year-old business owner Jan Hvem. He said he still supported joining the coalition for a long time.

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