Sweden’s NATO Membership: A Paradigm Shift in Geopolitics

Sweden has ratified its NATO membership after 20 months of negotiations, becoming the 32nd member of NATO following Finland’s accession in April 2023. The decision was made in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and heightened security concerns in northern Europe. Sweden’s addition is expected to strengthen NATO, particularly in the air and sea domains, with a 28% increase in defense spending. The alliance will benefit from collective defense guarantees and strategic capabilities.

Turkey’s initial objection to Sweden’s NATO bid can be seen as a strategic move to gain diplomatic leverage. Turkey withheld approval for NATO’s expansion decision-making, potentially seeking benefits in defense procurement, diplomatic support, or security concerns-related concessions. Ankara accused Sweden of harboring individuals affiliated with terrorist organizations, such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and those linked to the 2016 coup attempt against President Erdogan.

Despite Sweden’s efforts to address Turkey’s concerns, some of Ankara’s demands were viewed as particularly difficult to meet due to Sweden’s free speech laws. Turkey’s geopolitical strategy is also influenced by its regional security dynamics, particularly its relations with Russia and its role in conflicts in Syria and Libya. Turkey’s strategic autonomy in regional affairs is being maintained by its decisive role in NATO expansion, ensuring a balance between its Western allies and Russia.

Turkey’s stance on NATO membership was influenced by domestic politics, with the issue seen as a way for Erdogan to divert attention from internal challenges such as the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. The timing of Turkey’s election in May also played a role in this decision. Sweden’s accession to NATO may have been used by Erdogan to negotiate with the United States over issues like the purchase of F-16 fighter jets.

Hungary’s support for Sweden’s NATO membership is influenced by internal political tactics, strategic diplomacy, and geopolitical factors, reflecting the country’s domestic political agenda. The delay in ratifying Sweden’s NATO membership can be seen as a continuation of this strategy, asserting Hungary’s independent stance in international affairs. Ukraine conflict heightens Russia-NATO tensions, putting Hungary in sensitive position. Supporting alliance’s defense and expansion policies, Hungary risks ratifying Sweden’s NATO membership, relying on Russian energy.

By delaying Parliament ratification for Sweden’s membership in NATO, Hungary gains diplomatic leverage and positions itself as a significant player in the decision-making process of NATO expansion. Hungary’s cautious approach to regional security dynamics, including its dependence on Russian energy supplies, places it in a position where it must navigate its foreign policy carefully to avoid threatening these crucial energy imports.

Hungary’s relationship with the European Union is strained due to concerns over rule of law, media freedom, and democratic principles. Hungary may be using NATO expansion as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the EU, seeking concessions or mitigating criticism and sanctions from Brussels. Russia’s reaction to Finland and Sweden joining NATO has been diverse, with Dmitri Medvedev indicating a shift in military posture. He suggested strengthening military forces in the region, including naval forces in the Gulf of Finland and ground forces and air defense.

Lithuanian officials have alleged that Russia currently possesses nuclear weapons in the Baltic region, specifically in its Kaliningrad enclave. The exact nature and extent of Russia’s actions in response to NATO’s expansion are yet to be fully determined, but Russia views NATO’s expansion as a direct threat to its national security and warns of potential escalation in military preparedness and deployment.

EuropeEuropean UniongeopoliticsNATOSwedenSweden NATO membershipSweden's NATO MembershipSweden's NATO Membership: A Paradigm Shift in Geopolitics