President Joe Biden met with Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson at the White House on July 5 to express support for Sweden’s NATO membership ahead of the upcoming NATO summit. Sweden has expressed its desire to join NATO due to increased security concerns following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, Hungary and Turkey have been opposing Sweden’s application.
During the meeting, President Biden referred to Sweden as a “valued friend and partner” and emphasized the importance of its entrance into the military alliance. This was the first bilateral meeting between the two leaders at the White House since President Biden took office.
Both President Biden and Prime Minister Kristersson will participate in the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, next week. The summit aims to bring together heads of state, military officials, and diplomats from the alliance’s 31 member nations. This year’s summit is considered a critical moment, with some comparing it to the most important gathering since the Cold War or NATO’s founding in 1949. The member countries are expected to discuss global security challenges, particularly the increasing threats from Russia and China.
The opposition to Sweden’s NATO membership stems from the consensus-based decision-making process within NATO, involving all member states. Hungary’s parliament has decided to postpone the ratification of Sweden’s accession bid until its autumn legislative session. The Hungarian government accuses Swedish politicians of spreading “blatant lies” about Hungarian democracy. Similarly, Turkey is also delaying approval of Sweden’s request, citing unresolved security concerns.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that Sweden should not expect to join the alliance anytime soon and accused Sweden of being too accommodative toward certain groups, including militant Kurdish groups and individuals linked to a 2016 coup attempt. Quran-burning protests in Sweden have further aggravated tensions between the two countries. However, Sweden’s leaders have condemned the act, highlighting that such protests are legal under Swedish free speech laws.
Top diplomats from Turkey and Sweden are scheduled to meet at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels on July 6 to address and resolve these differences. Sweden’s accession to NATO would be a significant moment for the country, which has maintained a neutral and non-aligned position for over 200 years. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, both Sweden and Finland abandoned their longstanding positions and formally requested membership in NATO.
While the European Union may use economic and diplomatic tools to pressure Hungary, Turkey’s opposition remains a major concern. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) suggests that the failure to include Sweden in the alliance due to Turkey’s opposition would be a significant setback. Apart from Sweden, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and Ukraine have also expressed their aspirations to join NATO. Ukraine formally applied for membership last year, but its admission is unlikely until the war with Russia ends.
It is important to note that Ukraine’s membership in NATO would have significant implications, potentially leading to a declaration of war against Russia. Therefore, the consensus among allies regarding Ukraine’s future membership will require extensive discussions and a diplomatic resolution.
In conclusion, President Biden’s meeting with Prime Minister Kristersson highlighted the United States’ support for Sweden’s NATO membership. The upcoming NATO summit is crucial, bringing together member nations to address global security challenges posed by Russia and China. However, Hungary and Turkey’s opposition pose significant obstacles to Sweden’s accession. Diplomatic efforts will continue to resolve these differences and determine the future of Sweden’s NATO membership, alongside other countries aspiring to join the alliance.