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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) receives the NATO ratification documents from Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson during a ceremony at the U.S. State Department, as Sweden formally joins the alliance, in Washington, DC, on March 7, 2024. (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)
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Sweden officially joined NATO on March 7, almost two years after it applied to join the alliance.

Sweden and Finland applied for membership in 2022, abandoning their non-alignment policy in response to Russian aggression against Ukraine. Both countries' accession was held up by objections from Turkey and Hungary.

While Finland joined in April 2023, Turkey ratified Stockholm's bid only in January 2024. Hungarian President Tamas Sulyok signed the bill on Sweden's accession on March 5, clearing the final hurdle.

The remaining steps of the accession process occurred on March 7, when Hungary formally submitted its approval. Following this, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg officially invited Sweden to join, and the Swedish government convened to give the go-ahead.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson then handed the so-called "instruments of accession" to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington.

"Sweden is now a NATO member. Thank you all Allies for welcoming us as the 32nd member. We will strive for unity, solidarity and burden-sharing, and will fully adhere to the Washington Treaty values: freedom, democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. Stronger together," Kristersson wrote on X following the announcement.

Stoltenberg congratulated Sweden on accession on X, saying that the country is taking "its rightful place at our table."

"Sweden’s accession makes NATO stronger, Sweden safer, and the whole Alliance more secure," he added.

Sweden's flag will be raised at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on March 11.

The move was a reversal of 200 years of formal Swedish military neutrality.

It would also effectively turn the Baltic Sea into a "NATO lake," in which Russia is surrounded by alliance members.

Finnish president-elect: Ukraine’s NATO membership ‘just a matter of timing’
Stubb said that he sees three steps for Ukraine’s European and transatlantic aspirations. The first is security agreements that are currently being signed by all G7 members and 31 countries, followed by EU membership, and finally NATO membership.

Given Russia's supposed justification of its full-scale war against Ukraine as a pushback against NATO expansion, Sweden's accession to the alliance has been widely characterized as a "strategic blow to Moscow."

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova threatened in February 2024 that there would be a Russian response to the move but did not clarify what it would entail.

Russian President Vladimir Putin made similar vague threats to Finland after it joined the alliance, saying in December 2023 that Finland is "now going to have problems" because it joined NATO.

NATO militaries have strengthened their capacity and preparedness since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. While the prospect of the war escalating to an all-out clash between the alliance and Russia has so far been averted, there are concerns that the West has not truly accepted that it may still be a possibility.

Several NATO commanders and other alliance leaders have warned in increasingly stark terms in recent months about the dangers of such a war and what impact it could have across Europe.

Ukraine applied for a fast-track NATO accession on Sept. 30, 2022, after Russia claimed the illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions. Ukraine's prospects of joining the alliance while the full-scale war is ongoing remain low.

Volker: West has made a lot of mistakes in Russia-Ukraine war
The West doesn’t spend enough time analyzing its miscalculations in the Russia-Ukraine war, Kurt Volker, a former U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations, said in an interview with the Kyiv Independent. “We have made many mistakes, from just before Russia’s invasion and throughout. The…
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