Hungary Greenlights Key NATO Membership

On Monday, the parliament in Hungary finally ratified the bid by Sweden to join NATO, removing the last hurdle between the country’s official acceptance into the alliance.

For the last 18 months, Hungary has been blocking Sweden’s approval as a new member, which has caused much frustration among the other member states. NATO has been seeking to expand its footprint as Russia continues its war in Ukraine.

The vote in Hungary had 188 votes approving and only six disapproving.

While Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, first submitted certain protocols for his government to approve Sweden’s acceptance into NATO back in July of 2022, it stalled in the country’s parliament because of lawmakers’ opposition to membership.

Now that Hungary has decided to back off and approve Sweden, it will mark the second expansion of NATO membership in the last year.

In May of 2022, both Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine a few months earlier. It had been surmised that Russia initiated its all-out war with Ukraine as a way to deter NATO from expanding further.

The move didn’t work, though, with NATO expanding its footprint in a short amount of time. Finland’s membership was especially concerning for Russia, as the two countries share more than 800 miles of border — nearly doubling the direct border between Russia and NATO countries.

In order for a new country to be approved to join the treaty alliance, every member must give its approval — all 31.

After Hungary announced it had approved Sweden’s membership, Ulf Kristersson, the prime minister of Sweden, took to the social media platform X to celebrate, calling it “a historic day.”

He wrote:

“We stand ready to shoulder our share of the responsibility of NATO’s security.”

Orban has long been considered to have close ties to Russia. He has said in the past that the fact that some politicians in Sweden have criticized his country’s democracy soured relations between those two countries, which led to many lawmakers in his party to be reluctant to allow them into NATO.

However, Oban addressed Hungary’s lawmakers before the vote was taken, saying:

“Sweden and Hungary’s military cooperation and Sweden’s NATO accession strengthen Hungary’s security.”

At the same time, he criticized Hungary’s allies in NATO and the European Union for trying to pressure his government to approve Sweden’s entry into the alliance quickly. As he said:

“Several people tried to intervene from the outside in the settling of our disputes (with Sweden), but this did not help but rather hampered the issue. Hungary is a sovereign country. It does not tolerate being dictated by others, whether it be the content of its decisions or their timing.”

A bipartisan group of senators from the U.S. visited Hungary last weekend, announcing in the process they’d submit a joint resolution to Congress that would condemn what they called the “democratic backsliding” of Hungary, while also urging the government to approve Sweden’s entry into NATO.