Sweden officially joins NATO, ending decades of neutrality after World War II

(Jess Rapfogel/Associated Press)

Sweden officially joins NATO, ending decades of neutrality after World War II



March 7, 2024

Sweden formally joined NATO on Thursday as the 32nd member of the transatlantic military alliance, ending decades of neutrality after World War II and centuries of broader non-alignment with major powers as security concerns have grown in Europe after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

President Biden congratulated Sweden on its admission, saying it was a sign that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intervention in Ukraine had united rather than divided the alliance.

When Putin launched his brutal war of aggression against the Ukrainian people, he thought he could weaken Europe and divide NATO, Biden said in a statement.

Instead, Sweden and Finland, two of our close partners, with two very capable militaries, made the historic decision to apply for full NATO membership in May 2022,” Biden said. With the addition of Sweden today, NATO stands more united, determined and dynamic than ever, now 32 countries strong.”

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and


Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken presided over a ceremony in which Sweden’s instrument of access to the alliance was officially deposited at the State Department.

This is a historic moment for Sweden. It’s historic for the alliance. It’s historic for the transatlantic relationship, Blinken said. Our NATO alliance is now stronger and bigger than ever before.

Today is truly a historic day, Kristersson said. We are humiliated, but also proud. We will meet the high expectations of all NATO allies. United we stand. Unity and solidarity will be Sweden’s guiding light.”

Later Thursday, Kristersson was scheduled to visit the White House and be a guest of honor at Biden’s State of the Union address.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also described it as a historic day.

Sweden will now take its rightful place at the NATO table, with an equal voice in shaping NATO policies and decisions, he said in a statement.

The Swedish flag will be raised outside the military organization’s headquarters in Brussels on Monday. Stoltenberg underlined that the Nordic country now enjoys the protection granted under Article 5, the ultimate guarantee of the freedom and security of the allies.

Article 5 of the NATO treaty obliges all members to come to the aid of an ally whose territory or security is threatened. It has been activated only once by the US after the September 11, 2001, attacks and is the collective security guarantee Sweden has sought since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Sweden’s accession makes NATO stronger, Sweden more secure and the entire alliance more secure, Stoltenberg said. He added that this step shows that NATO’s door remains open and that every country has the right to choose its own path.

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

Biden was expected in his speech to Congress to use Sweden’s decision to join to step up calls for reluctant Republicans to approve stalled military aid to Ukraine as the war enters its third year.

Biden and his NATO colleagues have pledged that Ukraine will one day join as well.

Sweden’s membership was suspended due to objections from NATO members Turkey and Hungary. Turkey expressed concern that Sweden is harboring Kurdish groups it considers terrorists and not taking sufficient action, and Hungary’s populist President Viktor Orbán has shown pro-Russian sentiments 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.

Matthew Lee and Lorne Cook write for the Associated Press. Lee reported from Washington, Cook from Brussels. AP writer Jan M. Olsen contributed from Copenhagen.


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