Sweden has joined NATO as the western military alliance’s 32nd member, with its prime minister Ulf Kristersson having formally deposited its instrument of accession with the US government in Washington DC on 7 March.

“We will live up to high expectations from all NATO allies,” Kristersson says. “We will share burdens, responsibilities and risks.”

Describing the move as “a victory for freedom”, he says: “Sweden has made a free, democratic, sovereign and united choice to join NATO. Sweden is now leaving 200 years of neutrality and military non-alignment behind. It is a major step, but a very natural step.

Swedish air force Gripen Cs

Source: Saab

New NATO member Sweden currently operates Saab Gripen C fighters

“We have unique capabilities to contribute on land, in the air [and] at sea. Our support to Ukraine is a fundamental part of that,” he adds.

Kristersson says Stockholm is in the process of doubling its defence spending, and notes: “From this year onwards, Sweden will meet NATO’s standard of [spending] 2% of GDP” on its military.

“We are increasing the numbers of conscripts, strengthening civil defence and reintroducing civilian service in Sweden,” he adds.

“This is a historic day,” says Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance’s secretary general. “Sweden will now take its rightful place at NATO’s table, with an equal say in shaping NATO policies and decisions.”

On 11 March, the Swedish flag will be raised alongside those of NATO’s 31 other member nations at its Brussels headquarters in Belgium.

“Sweden brings with it capable armed forces and a first-class defence industry,” Stoltenberg says. Its accession “makes NATO stronger, Sweden safer and the whole alliance more secure”, he adds.

Along with neighbouring Finland, Sweden asked to join NATO following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. But while Helsinki’s addition was finalised in April 2023, Stockholm’s accession process was delayed by Turkey and Hungary.

The Hungarian parliament in late February voted to approve Sweden’s addition to the alliance, shortly after the nations had sealed a follow-on deal for Budapest to take another four Saab Gripen C fighters.