(UnitedVoice.com) – When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, President Vladimir Putin ranted about the alleged expansion of NATO. He repeatedly demanded Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy agree never to join the international alliance, something Zelenskyy made clear was a non-starter.
Putin claimed that NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe was a danger to his country’s national security. Ironically, Russia’s decision to attack Ukraine led to an expansion of the international alliance.
Expansion of NATO
Sweden and Finland were traditionally neutral countries. In the 1990s, Sweden actually reduced the size of its military and made peacekeeping a priority. However, when Russia became more aggressive, beginning in 2014 when it annexed Crimea, Sweden began getting antsy. In 2022, after Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, both Finland and Sweden moved to join NATO — the exact opposite of what Russia wanted.
On April 4, 2023, Finland became an official member of the alliance. However, Sweden was not as lucky. Türkiye and Hungary have been blocking the nation from becoming a full member.
Türkiye Backs Down
On January 23, Türkiye’s Parliament voted to allow Sweden to become a member of NATO. The measure passed 287 to 55, with four abstentions. The vote was a major moment for the Swedish government on its path to becoming a full member of the alliance.
The vote was the second step of Türkiye’s ratification process. The first step came in December when the country’s Foreign Affairs Commission approved Sweden’s request. Turkish President Recep Erdogan will have to sign the protocol into law.
Erdogan initially objected to Sweden joining because he said the country was too lenient on militant groups like the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The Swedish government responded to those concerns by tightening its anti-terror laws and agreeing to work with Türkiye to address security concerns the president has.
Hungary Stands in the Way
The only country standing in the way now is Hungary. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán reportedly spoke to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on the day after the vote and said that his government supports Sweden’s accession to NATO.
However, the speaker of Hungary’s parliament, László Kövér, has refused to call a special session to speed up the process. POLITICO reported the speaker said he doesn’t think “there is any urgency” or “think that there is any exceptional situation.”
Orbán is reportedly more closely aligned with Russia. The country has also taken issue with the way Sweden has talked about its authoritarian government. Kövér accused Sweden of “denigrating the democratically elected government.”
Nonetheless, Sweden is closer than ever before, and Russia is responsible for making that happen with its violent war against Ukraine.
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