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Hungarian PM Supports Sweden’s NATO Entry, Weakening Russian Hopes

In a significant development that deals another blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s concerns about NATO expansion, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has announced his country’s intention to ratify Sweden’s entry into the alliance.

Putin’s Concerns

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Putin has repeatedly cited concerns over NATO expansion as one of the reasons behind Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine.

NATO Expansion

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However, despite these concerns, NATO’s ranks have continued to grow since Russia’s invasion in February 2022. Last year, Finland joined the alliance, and now Sweden is on a similar path.

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Obstacles Disappearing Rapidly

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Potential obstacles to Sweden’s accession to NATO, including perceived opposition from countries like Turkey and Hungary, have been swiftly fading away this week.

Turkey’s Endorsement and Hungary’s Support

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Turkey’s parliament endorsed Sweden’s NATO membership on Tuesday, marking a significant step in the process.

On the following day, Prime Minister Orbán declared his renewed support for the alliance’s expansion to include Sweden.

Orbán’s Public Announcement and Diplomatic Initiatives

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Orbán expressed his backing for Sweden’s NATO membership in a statement posted on social media.

Additionally, he had a conversation with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, reaffirming his support for Sweden’s accession.

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Shift In Stance

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These public statements and diplomatic initiatives signal a clear shift in Hungary’s stance.

Legislative Process and Timelines

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Hungary’s parliament is currently in recess, with sessions resuming on February 15.

If it follows Orbán’s recommendation and votes to endorse Sweden’s membership upon reconvening, the process could move forward swiftly.

Needs Erdogan’s Approval Too

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However, it’s important to note that the bill also requires the signature of Turkish President Recep Erdoğan to proceed.

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Shift in Support and Swift Response

Credit: Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson arrives for a EU Summit, at the EU headquarters in Brussels, on March 23, — Photo by Ale_Mi

Just a day before expressing support for Sweden’s alliance with NATO, Orbán sent a letter to Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, inviting him to visit Hungary for negotiations on various issues, including Sweden’s NATO membership.

No Negotiations

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However, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström promptly rejected the offer.

He stated that there was no reason to negotiate at this point and expressed hope that Hungary would ratify Sweden’s NATO membership promptly.

Orbán’s Role and Dissolution of Pro-Russia Support

Credit: Bucharest, Romania – Dec. 17, 2022: Plenary session of the Agreement On Strategic Partnership In The Field Of Green Energy Development And Transmission between Azerbaijan, Georgia, Romania and Hungary — Photo by llcv

Viktor Orbán, who may soon lead the European Council, has been viewed as one of Putin’s few allies among NATO leaders.

However, his announcement in support of Sweden joining NATO indicates a shift in support.

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Slovakia Joins in Support Too

Credit: Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico ,European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Energy Union Vice-President Maro efovi hold a press conference after their meeting at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on Jul. 27, 2017 — Photo by Ale_Mi

Additionally, Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, another NATO leader who made pro-Russia remarks during the Ukraine conflict, signed a statement on the same day supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

“NATO Lake” in the Baltic Sea

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Sweden’s potential entry into NATO would complete the transformation of the Baltic Sea into a “NATO lake.”

All other nations bordering the Baltic Sea—Finland, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia—are already members of the alliance.

The sole exception remains the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, situated between Lithuania and Poland.

Putin’s Stance on NATO

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Putin has recently expressed interest in developing relations with NATO members, emphasizing that Russia has no reason or geopolitical interest in engaging in conflicts with member states.

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Strain on Putin’s Military

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Dr. Erwan Lagadec, an associate research professor at George Washington University’s Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, has noted that Putin is aware of the limitations he faces concerning NATO’s expansion due to the strain on his military in Ukraine.

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