Officials Push To Grant Sweden Membership With NATO

As the only country standing in the way of Sweden’s admission to NATO, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary has vowed to exert pressure on his lawmakers to approve the membership of the Swedes.

Orban reiterated his long-standing claim that he has no authority to make a final decision and did not provide a date for a vote. This has cast a shadow over Hungary’s protracted hesitancy over NATO’s enlargement, and the matter remains unresolved.

Last month, during a meeting of European leaders in Brussels to address the situation in Ukraine, Hungary adopted a stance similar to its hard stance on Sweden. Orban torpedoed a $52 billion aid plan for Ukraine on his own. On February 1, leaders will meet again to get Orban to stop being a dissenting voice. Despite repeatedly stating that they would not obstruct Sweden, Hungarian authorities have provided various explanations for the delays, some of which are inconsistent.

In the background, Orban’s resolve to maintain amicable relations with Russia’s President Vladimir V. Putin to maintain the supply of natural gas and oil to Hungary from Russia has not gone unnoticed.

Hungarian demands have been less evident than Turkey’s, which have been plain but ever-changing. For example, Turkey wants Sweden to crack down on Turkish dissidents in Sweden, and it wants NATO membership tied to a weapons sale between Turkey and the US. Analysts agree that the one constant in Hungary’s stalling has been that it has placed Mr. Orban, leader of a small Eastern European country, squarely where he wants to be: courted, not pushed around, by more powerful nations and center stage as a combative defender of national sovereignty.

Due to its proximity to Ukraine, Hungary may have been an essential ally in the West’s attempts to assist the country in its fight against Russian aggression. However, it has persistently weakened other forms of assistance for Ukraine and has declined to give a transit channel for weapons like Poland.

With the European Parliament elections in June approaching, Mr. Orban believes that time is on his side. These elections have the potential to rally nationalist groups that share their concerns about Ukraine and their support for Russia.