Sweden officially joined NATO Thursday, making it the 32nd member. The Scandinavian country began the process to join the alliance alongside Finland shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022.

“Good things come to those who wait,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, per Reuters.

Sweden ended a 200-year-old policy of “non-alignment” in order to join.

“Swedes realized something very profound: that if Putin was willing to try to erase one neighbor from the map, then he might well not stop there,” Blinken, who received the documents from Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, said during the ceremony, per The New York Times.

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What is NATO and which countries are members?

Why did it take nearly 2 years for Sweden to be approved into NATO?

Unanimous support is required to bring additional members to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Two countries in the alliance expressed hesitancy about approving Sweden’s bid to join NATO: Hungary and Turkey.

Here’s why:

  • Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán “has said that criticism of Hungary’s democracy by Swedish politicians soured relations between the two countries and led to reluctance among lawmakers,” CBS News reported.
  • Turkey delayed approving the Swedish bid “after months of tensions between the two nations, sparked primarily by a spate of Quran-burning protests in Sweden that enraged Turkish lawmakers,” according to CNN.

What benefits does Sweden bring to NATO?

Finland joined in April 2023, “more than doubling NATO’s border with Russia in a blow to President Vladimir Putin,” CNN reported.

“Sweden’s accession makes NATO stronger, Sweden safer and the whole Alliance more secure,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement, per Reuters.

The country brings with it “cutting-edge submarines and a sizable fleet of domestically produced Gripen fighter jets to NATO forces,” Reuters reported.

“We will strive for unity, solidarity and burden-sharing, and will fully adhere to the Washington Treaty values: freedom, democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. Stronger together,” Kristersson said in a statement, per CNN.