Flag of NATO’s 32nd member, Sweden, raised at alliance’s headquarters | News

Flag of NATO’s 32nd member, Sweden, raised at alliance’s headquarters | News

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson preside over flag-raising ceremony in Brussels.

Sweden’s flag has been raised at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, marking the country’s entry into the military alliance two years after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg looked on as two soldiers on Monday raised the blue banner emblazoned with a yellow cross among the official circle of national flags at the transatlantic grouping’s offices in the Belgian capital.

Ahead of the flag-hoisting ceremony held in the rain, Kristersson said expectations were “high”.

“We have chosen you, and you have chosen us. All for one, and one for all,” the prime minister said, adding that his country was a “proud” member and pledging that it would uphold the values enshrined in NATO’s founding Washington Treaty.

“The security situation in our region has not been this serious since the Second World War, and Russia will stay a threat to Euro-Atlantic security for a foreseeable future,” Kristersson said.

For his part, Stoltenberg said Sweden becoming the alliance’s 32nd member shows Russian President Vladimir Putin “failed” in his Ukrainian war strategy of weakening it.

“When President Putin launched his full-scale invasion two years ago, he wanted less NATO and more control over his neighbours. He wanted to destroy Ukraine as a sovereign state, but he failed,” Stoltenberg said, adding that Ukraine is “closer to NATO than ever before”.

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The ceremony came as 20,000 troops from 13 countries began NATO drills in the high north of Sweden as well as its neighbours Finland and Norway.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022 prompted Sweden and Finland, which shares a 1,340km (832-mile) border with Russia, to end years of military nonalignment and apply to join the United States-led alliance.

While Finland joined in April 2023, Sweden’s adhesion to NATO took close to two years as Turkey and Hungary held up the process that requires the unanimous support of all members.

The Turkish parliament gave its formal consent in January and Hungary’s came last week.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday labelled the accession a “historic moment for Sweden, for our alliance and for the transatlantic relationship”.

“Good things come to those who wait,” Blinken said as he received Sweden’s accession documents in Washington, DC.

The members of NATO have lent their military and financial support to Ukraine in its fightback against Russian forces, but momentum is slowing as US political will fractures and Europe struggles to meet the Ukrainian ammunition needs.

Sweden brings to the table well-trained and equipped armed forces. It also adds cutting-edge submarines and a sizeable fleet of domestically produced Gripen fighter jets to NATO forces and would be a crucial link between the Atlantic and Baltic.

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