Sweden Officially Joins NATO, Ending Centuries of Neutrality

Sweden's neutrality kept the country out of both World Wars

Sweden officially joined NATO on Thursday, becoming the 32nd member of the Cold War-era alliance, which had 16 members when the Soviet Union dissolved.

By joining NATO, Sweden has officially abandoned its centuries-old policy of neutrality that kept the country out of two World Wars, sparing it the destruction most European nations faced.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Secretary of State Antony Blinken made Stockholm’s membership official in Washington. Kristersson was also due to visit the White House and will attend President Biden’s State of the Union address on Thursday night as a guest of honor.

“This is a historic moment for Sweden. It’s historic for the alliance. It’s historic for the transatlantic relationship,” Blinken said, according to The Associated Press. “Our NATO alliance is now stronger, larger than it’s ever been.”

Washington and Stockholm have already signed a new Defense Cooperation Agreement that will grant the US military access to multiple bases in Sweden. The US signed a similar deal with Finland, which became NATO 31st member last year, and shares an over 800-mile border with Russia.

Russia has said it responded to the NATO expansion in the Nordic region by beefing up its military assets in western Russia.

“Against the background of a build-up of NATO’s military potential near the Russian borders, the expansion of the alliance through the accession of Finland and, in the future, Sweden, we have taken steps to strengthen the groupings of troops in the north-western and western strategic directions,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Wednesday.

At the end of the Cold War, the US and its allies told the Russians that NATO would not be expanded east of Germany. But the commitment was never part of a treaty, and the US decided to make an enemy out of post-Soviet Russia. The promise to eventually bring Ukraine into the alliance and NATO involvement in Ukraine since the 2014 coup in Kyiv was one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s main motives for launching the invasion.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.