Sweden is one step closer to NATO membership

Accepting a new pal into your friend group can sometimes be a weird process. Sweden and Turkey know this from experience.   

What happened: Turkey has voted to approve Sweden’s NATO bid after playing hardball for about 20 months over the presence of Turkish separatist groups that are operating in the country. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to sign the decision into law this week.

  • To achieve membership status, a candidate country must win the approval of every member nation. After Turkey’s endorsement, Hungary is now the lone holdout.

  • Sweden introduced an anti-terrorist bill — Turkey considers separatists terrorists — to quash concerns. It also relaxed some arms-export policies affecting Turkey. 

Catch-up: Both Sweden and Finland dropped long-held neutrality stances and applied for membership in the NATO military bloc shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While Finland’s bid was relatively painless, Turkey withheld Sweden’s status for political leverage

Why it matters: In addition to affordable-yet-quality furniture and the sounds of ABBA, Sweden possesses significant geographic importance. Its membership would mean that the entire Baltic coastline would be NATO territory, except the part of it that belongs to Russia.   

  • This means that NATO would be better equipped to defend its Baltic member states in the case of a Russian attack and more easily move troops throughout the area. 

  • Sweden also has small, but fairly mighty, armed forces with combat experience. In particular, it has a modernized air force and robust naval presence with submarines. 

What’s next: Hungary seems poised to also give Sweden the go-ahead, and Sweden is ready to fight; two defence ministers said the country should mentally prepare for a potential war against Russia.—QH