US hints at sanctions if Hungary doesn’t soon ratify Sweden’s NATO membership

NATO head Stoltenberg assures that PM Orbán will admit Sweden into the alliance

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, right, and U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan address a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a press conference on Wednesday that he had spoken to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán a few days ago, who assured him that the Hungarian Parliament would approve Sweden’s membership shortly after the start of the spring session.

Sweden’s membership of NATO has been in front of the Hungarian parliament for a while now, but no decision has been taken, despite an extraordinary session of parliament on Monday, which the governing party MPs, however, did not attend. This has put Orbán under increasing pressure from international officials.

Stoltenberg held a joint press conference with White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in Brussels on Wednesday — the U.S. advisor arrived in the Belgian capital a day earlier. Among other things, Ukraine was discussed at the briefing, but later, The Washington Post asked him about Sweden’s membership of the EU.

The reporter recalled that the Hungarian government had promised that it would not be the last one to back Sweden’s NATO membership, yet this is the case, and it is still not known when Sweden will be a member of the alliance. He also added that some U.S. lawmakers have already proposed sanctions against Hungary for delaying Swedish membership, and asked the two officials if they still trust Hungary.

In response, Stoltenberg made clear that he believed Sweden could join the alliance soon.

“I spoke with (Prime Minister Orbán) a few days ago, and he made it very clear that he strongly supports Swedish membership of the alliance. It is also clear that the Hungarian parliament is not in session now, but they will reconvene at the end of February, and the message was that soon after that, they will make a decision on ratification of Sweden, so I expect that Sweden will be a full member in the near future,” Stoltenberg said.

Sullivan was more forceful in his response, indicating that the U.S. patience was not unlimited:

“So, I’m not going to stand here today and make particular threats or speculations about steps we would take down the road. But of course, our patience on this can’t be unlimited either. So, we’ll continue to watch it carefully but hope that there is a constructive resolution to this issue in the very near term,” he said.

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