Swedish PM travels to US as NATO accession nears

Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson speaks during a press conference at the government headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden, February 26, 2024, after Hungary's parliament on Monday voted yes to ratify Sweden's NATO accession. TT News Agency/Magnus Lejhall via REUTERS/File Photo © Thomson Reuters

COPENHAGEN/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom will travel to Washington on Wednesday, the government said, where they are expected to complete the process of joining NATO.

Sweden will immediately become NATO’s 32nd member when it deposits the formal documentation, marking an end to 200 years during which Stockholm avoided military alliances and adopted a neutral stance in times of war.

A spokesperson for Kristersson declined to give any further details beyond the brief government statement.

After years of warning Sweden and Finland they should not join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has achieved what President Vladimir Putin sought to avert – an expansion of the alliance, Western leaders have said.

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 in times of crisis.

It will benefit from the alliance’s common defence guarantee under which an attack on one member is regarded as an attack on all.

Russia said it would adopt unspecified military-technical and other counter measures in response to Swedish NATO membership.

Sweden’s application, made alongside neighbour Finland in May 2022, has been delayed by Turkey and Hungary.

Turkey gave its approval last month and on Tuesday Hungary’s president followed suit, clearing the final hurdle to Sweden’s membership.

Hungary is expected to hand over the last documents to the U.S. administration on Thursday, Swedish news agency TT said, without giving any sources.

Sweden has to wait until that happens before it can complete the formalities of NATO membership.

Source: Reuters/Reporting by Stine Jacobsen in Copenhagen, Johan Ahlander and Simon Johnson in Stockholm, editing by Terje Solsvik and Barbara Lewis