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Hungary signs deal to buy Swedish fighter jets amid preparations to approve Sweden's NATO bid

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk February 23, 2024 3:25 PM 2 min read
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson (L) meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest, Hungary, on Feb. 23, 2024. (Balint Szentgallay/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban met his Swedish counterpart Ulf Kristersson in Budapest on Feb. 23 and agreed to purchase four Swedish JAS Gripen fighter jets.

After almost two years of delays, Hungary's parliament is set to bring Sweden's NATO accession to a vote on Feb. 26. The ruling Fidesz party has pledged its support for the ratification, making its passage all but ensured.

Sweden and Finland applied to join the alliance in 2022 after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but their accession was held up by objections from Turkey and Hungary.

Finland joined NATO in April 2023. After Turkey formally ratified Sweden's NATO membership on Jan. 25, Hungary remains the only member yet to approve Sweden's application.

"We not only keep our air defense capability but will increase it ... which means our commitment to NATO will strengthen, and so will our participation in NATO's joint operations," Orban said at a joint press conference with Kristersson.

"As you know, and I know, we do not agree on everything, but we agree that we should cooperate where possible," Kristersson said, as cited by Reuters.

Hungary delayed ratifying Sweden's NATO accession in part due to the country's criticism of the deteriorating rule of law under Orban's tenure.

Hungary and Ukraine have had a contentious relationship that has worsened since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion. Orban has maintained close ties with Russia, bucking the united front that the EU has tried to present in support of Ukraine.

After blocking 50 billion euros ($54 billion) in EU aid for Ukraine in December 2023, Orban reversed course earlier in February and voted for the package, claiming that he had received guarantees that none of Hungary's funds would go to Ukraine.

Swedish minister reaffirms willingness to send jets to Ukraine after finalizing NATO bid
Sweden is open to providing Ukraine with modern fighter jets, but first needs a full-fledged NATO membership and the security provided by Article 5, Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson said on Feb. 16 at the Munich Security Conference, according to a Kyiv Independent reporter.
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