‘We will share the risks’: Sweden’s NATO membership cemented in flag-raising ceremony

World

Sweden has cemented its place as a new member of NATO with a flag-raising ceremony.

Two soldiers raised the blue banner emblazoned with a yellow cross among the official circle of national flags at the headquarters of the alliance in Brussels, Belgium.

The ceremony came two years after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine persuaded Sweden’s reluctant public to seek safety under NATO’s security umbrella.

The Nordic country becomes the 32nd member of the alliance.

Under a steady rain, Swedish prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, and NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, attended the ceremony.

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The ceremony was held at the NATO headquarters in Belgium. Pic: Reuters

Mr Kristersson said: “We are humble, but we are also proud.

“We know the expectations for Sweden are high, but we also have high expectations for ourselves.

“We will share burdens, responsibilities and risks with our allies.”

Sweden set aside decades of post-war neutrality when it formally joined NATO last Thursday.

Its neighbour Finland joined last year in another historic move, ending years of military non-alignment.

Image:
Pic: Reuters

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Finland’s defence ministry welcomed “our brothers and sisters in arms”, saying “now we stand at the beginning of a new era. Together and with other allies in peace, in crisis and beyond”.

President Vladimir Putin’s decision to order Russian troops into Ukraine in February 2022 triggered a change in public opinion in both countries – and within three months they had applied to join the world’s biggest security organisation.

Mr Putin claimed to have launched the war, at least in part, over NATO’s eastward expansion towards Russia, but his military move has only made the alliance bigger.

NATO leaders have previously promised Ukraine will join the alliance one day – but it is unlikely while the conflict continues.

The flag-raising ceremony came as 20,000 troops from 13 countries began NATO drills in northern Sweden as well as Finland and Norway.

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