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  • Context (IE): Sweden’s demand to join NATO was supported by Turkey’s parliament.
  • Sweden and Finland applied for membership in 2022. While Finland became the 31st member, Sweden was opposed by Turkey and Hungary.
  • Sweden is an official Invitee and attends NATO meetings.

Sweden: From Neutral to NATO

  • Sweden had been neutral during the World Wars and the Cold War.
  • Earlier, it joined European Union but avoided joining NATO to avoid tension with its neighbour Russia.
  • After the Russia-Ukraine crisis, it abandoned neutrality with public opinion in favour of joining NATO.

Oppositions to Sweden’s bid

Turkey’s opposition

  • Soft stand of Sweden against Kurdish militant outfit the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the group behind the 2016 Turkey failed coup.
  • Quran-burning protests were allowed by the Swedish government under freedom of speech.

Hungary’ opposition

  • It objected to Sweden’s negative remarks about the rule of law and the state of democracy under the current government.

Changed dynamics

  • Sweden had tightened its anti-terrorism laws and cracked down on the PKK’s activities.
  • It lifted restrictions on arms sales to Turkey.
  • Sweden has committed to support Turkey’s EU membership bid.
  • The US agreement to sell 40 F-16 fighter jets to Turkey has also changed the dynamics.
  • After Turkey’s move, Hungary also has softened the stance.

Importance of Sweden for NATO

  • Encirclement of the Baltic Sea (except the area under Russia) will give NATO a strategic edge.
  • The Swedish military is modern and experienced in past NATO missions.

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Russia’s reaction

  • Russia has reacted negatively to Sweden and Finland’s decision to abandon nonalignment and seek NATO membership.
  • It has warned them of unspecified countermeasures.

NATO membership

  • Open door policy (Article 10): All European countries are eligible to join NATO.
  • Since 1949, NATO’s membership has increased from 12 to 31 countries through nine rounds of enlargement.
  • Finland became the latest country to join the Alliance in 2023.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Sweden and Ukraine have declared their aspirations to join NATO.

Process of joining NATO

  • Accession talks: To obtain formal confirmation from the invitees.
  • Letters of intent: They are sent to NATO along with the timeline of reforms.
  • Accession protocols are signed and ratified by NATO countries with the consensus of all members.
  • Accession to the North Atlantic Treaty.
  • Submission of instruments of accession to the US State Department makes invitees NATO members.
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