Tuesday Briefing: Hungary Approved Sweden’s NATO Bid

Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary speaking to Parliament, which approved Sweden as a new member of NATO. Credit…Denes Erdos/Associated Press

Hungary approved Sweden’s NATO bid

After more than a year and a half of stalling, Hungary’s Parliament voted yesterday to approve Sweden as a new member of NATO.

The move allows Sweden to clear the final hurdle that had blocked its membership. It comes at a critical time for the alliance, which has been trying to isolate Russia over its war in Ukraine.

The parliamentary vote followed a decision by Sweden to provide Hungary with four Swedish-made Gripen fighter jets and a promise that Saab, which manufactures the warplanes, would open an A.I. research center in Hungary. Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, who has maintained cordial relations with President Vladimir Putin, has a long record of using Hungary’s veto power over key decisions in Europe to try to extract money or rewards.

The long, drawn-out process to get to this point is likely to leave a bitter aftertaste, and will not quickly change Orban’s reputation as a troublemaker more interested in cozying up to Putin than in supporting the alliance.

Background: After Putin invaded Ukraine, both Finland and Sweden rapidly applied to join NATO. Finland was admitted to the alliance last April, but the strategic defeat that move dealt to Putin had been undermined by the delays in approving Sweden.

Analysis: Putin now finds himself faced with an enlarged and motivated NATO. Its expansion is blowback from the invasion of Ukraine that he may not have calculated.

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