Sweden becomes NATO member as PM Kristersson visits US

World Thursday 07/March/2024 19:56 PM
By: DW
Sweden becomes NATO member as PM Kristersson visits US

Brussels: After two centuries of neutrality and two years of diplomacy, Sweden officially became the 32nd member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) on Thursday, the US government announced on Thursday.

Both the Swedish and US governments had indicated earlier in the day that the process would be finalized on Thursday during Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson's visit to Washington.

Kristersson will join First Lady Jill Biden in the viewing box for  US President Joe Biden's 2024 State of the Union address in Washington.

Sweden's NATO accession will come into effect immediately once it deposits the formal documentation, which Kristersson will do in an official ceremony with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken later on Thursday, the Swedish government confirmed.

"Sweden is a strong democracy with a highly capable military that shares our values and vision for the world," read the White House briefing. "Having Sweden as a NATO Ally will make the United States and our Allies even safer."

The Swedish flag is then expected to be hoisted at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday.

While already militarily intertwined with the United States and members of the European Union, Sweden has not been involved in a war since the Napoleonic conflicts of the early 19th century, remaining neutral in both world wars in the 20th century.

NATO's Nordic Response Exercise is currently taking place in northern Sweden, Norway and Finland, involving 20,000 NATO troops from 13 countries, including Swedish marines.

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, a top ally of President Vladimir Putin, said on Thursday that the exercise looked like a rehearsal for an armed confrontation with Russia. According to the Interfax news agency, he called it "destabilizing" and said it was "raising tensions."

As a NATO member, Sweden, with its cutting-edge submarines and Gripen fighter jets, will be a crucial link between the Atlantic and the Baltic states.

A recent poll by Swedish broadcaster SR said that most Swedes believe the country made too many sacrifices to join NATO, although more than three-quarters believed NATO would boost the country's security.

Russia said it would adopt unspecified military-techniques and other countermeasures in response to Sweden joining the alliance.