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    Sweden joins NATO, Hungary agrees to arms deal

    Swedish soldiers will now become part of the alliance. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT/AFP via Getty Images

    NATO leaders hailed a historic moment for European security on Monday when Sweden joined the alliance, capping a two-year process marred by resistance from Hungary and Turkey.

    < p>The final obstacle to Sweden joining NATO was cleared after the Hungarian parliament approved the Nordic country's entry into the EU following a deal to sell Swedish fighter jets to Budapest.

    Rishi Sunak said the moment was a “historic day” ​​for our alliance,” and French President Emmanuel Macron said he would “protect our collective security today and tomorrow.”

    Kaia Kallas, prime minister of Estonia, whose country shares a land border with Russia, said that Sweden's entry “sends a signal to Russia: attempts to blackmail NATO from its neighbors have failed.”

    Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, also welcomed Hungary's ratification.

    I welcome the vote of the Hungarian parliament to ratify Sweden's membership in NATO. Now that all allies have approved this decision, Sweden will become the 32nd #NATO ally. Swedish membership will make us all stronger and safer.

    — Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) February 26, 2024

    Nearly two years ago, Sweden decided to end its policy of non-alignment, which lasted through two world wars and the Cold War after Putin's illegal invasion of Ukraine.

    The Hungarian vote ended after a months-long delay after a visit on Friday by Ulf Kristersson, the prime minister. Minister of Sweden, during which the two countries signed an arms supply agreement. This includes four Swedish JAS 39 Gripen aircraft sent to Hungary, which will expand its fleet to 14 aircraft.

    Sweden's entry into NATO was supported by 188 members of the Hungarian parliament, with six against and no one abstaining.< /p>

    Viktor Orban, Prime Minister of Hungary, called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and the lifting of sanctions against the Kremlin, despite that it is a member of NATO and the EU. He was under pressure from other NATO allies to prepare Sweden for joining the alliance.

    Turkey also blocked Sweden's entry until the US promised to sell F-16 aircraft to Ankara. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's president, accused Stockholm of harboring Kurdish fighters.

    He withdrew his objections to NATO after 20 months when Sweden agreed to lift a ban on Turkish arms exports, changed its laws and agreed to work with Ankara on Kurdish issue.

    Sweden had hoped to join NATO at the same time as neighboring Finland, which was also non-aligned before the invasion of Ukraine.

    Four Swedish JAS 39 aircraft Gripen will be sent to Hungary Photo: Piroshka van de Vou/Reuters

    This had to wait because of Ankara and Budapest, which have warmer relations with Moscow than other NATO members, which quickly supported the Stockholm Statement.

    Putin has demanded that the two northern European countries remain outside the alliance before going to war in February 2022.

    There was no immediate reaction from the Kremlin to Sweden joining NATO as of Monday evening. In a post on X, the Russian embassy hinted at military action against Sweden, as well as new member Finland, if it joins NATO.

    “If anyone still believes that this will somehow improve European security , then you can be sure that new members of the hostile bloc will become a legitimate target for Russian retaliatory measures, including military ones,” the message says.

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