Hungary has given the go-ahead for Sweden to join NATO after holding out for over a year, The New York Times reported Friday.

Hungary was the last NATO member to ratify Sweden’s bid to join the alliance, but Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Friday the time had come to approve it, according to NYT. Hungary had held out on ratifying Sweden’s bid over disputes between the two countries that went on for 19 months.

“We are ready to fight for each other, to give our lives for each other,” Orban said during a joint press conference in Budapest alongside Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson. “Today’s meeting is a milestone in a long process… This long process can also be called the process of rebuilding trust, and we can mark the end of this phase today.”


The green light from Orban comes just hours after Sweden approved the provision of four Swedish-made Gripen fighter jets to join Hungary’s existing fleet of 14 jets, according to NYT. Sweden also guaranteed Hungary that Saab, the manufacturer of the fighter jets, would build a new AI hub in Hungary.

Sweden’s Gripen fighter jets are essential to Hungary’s air force, as the country does not possess great military capabilities on its own, according to NYT. Orban was praised in Hungarian media as a master military negotiator for locking down the fighter jet deal.

Orban declared that his approval of Sweden’s NATO bid had nothing to do with the country’s promise of fighter jets and new AI capabilities, according to NYT. Instead, he attributed it to a renewal of trust between the two countries after months of expressing that Sweden had been disrespectful to Hungary.

Orban and his administration had also previously blamed the holdout on Sweden’s accusations that Hungary’s democracy was falling apart under the prime minister, as well as anti-Hungarian material taught in schools and Kristersson’s critical comments of Hungary prior to his tenure.

The Biden administration and several lawmakers had been pressuring Orban into accepting Sweden’s NATO bid, adding to tensions over Hungary’s hesitance on aid to Ukraine, according to NYT. A delegation of congressional lawmakers visited Budapest last week but was not received well; Hungarian officials refused to meet with the delegation, with the foreign minister declaring that it was “not worth it for visiting American senators to try to exert pressure.”

If Sweden ascends to NATO, the alliance will have 32 members. All other members have already approved Sweden’s bid.

Jake Smith on February 23, 2024

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