Fri. Jul 12th, 2024
Secretary Antony J. Blinken Receives Sweden’s NATO Instruments of Accession Before Meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson

MODERATOR:  Good morning, everyone.  Thank you for being here today.  Prime Minister Kristersson, accompanied by Foreign Minister Billström, will now deposit Sweden’s instrument of accession to the North Atlantic Treaty, with Secretary of State Blinken representing the United States of America as the depositary of the treaty. 

(The instrument was deposited.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Welcome.  (Applause.)  Well, good things come to those who wait.  (Laughter.)   No better example.  But with receipt of this instrument of accession, let me be the very first to welcome Sweden as a party to the Washington Treaty and the 32nd member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  (Applause.) 

Prime Minister, to you, to my friend the foreign minister, a personal note of thanks for your extraordinary leadership, your extraordinary vision, and your resilience.  This has been a little bit of a road, but I think we’ve known from day one, that we would be here today, and now we are.  This is a historic moment for Sweden.  It’s historic for our Alliance.  It’s historic for the transatlantic relationship.  Our NATO Alliance, our defensive alliance, is now stronger and larger than it’s ever been. 

But I think if you step back and think of where we were three years ago, none of this was foreordained and in fact, none of this was foreseeable.  Sweden had a 200-year-old policy of nonalignment.  And before Putin’s re-invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022, if you looked at the polling, less than one-third of Swedes supported joining NATO.  This was part and parcel of Sweden’s history, and then everything changed.  After the invasion, three-quarters of the Swedish people made clear their desire to join.  Swedes realized something very profound: that if Putin was willing to try to erase one neighbor from the map, then he might well not stop there. 

And if he was allowed to proceed with impunity, not only would his aggression potentially continue, but would-be aggressors everywhere would get the message that it was open season.  And so, the Swedish people stood up – stood up not only for their own country, but stood up to the common responsibility that we share to try to make sure that the very foundations of the international system that we all rely on – to have peace, to have security, to have opportunity – when they were challenged, we were there to defend them.  Sweden was there to defend them.  And I think what this tells us even more profoundly is the reaffirmation of Sweden’s democratic character: change driven by its people, by its citizens. 

There’s also no clearer example than today of the strategic debacle that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has become for Russia.  We see a Russia that is now weaker militarily, economically, diplomatically.  Its standing in Ukraine has changed dramatically, whereas before 2014 – the first invasion – people were open to positive relations with Russia; now, virtually the entire society – and not just today; probably for generations – has turned against Russia because of its aggression.  And fundamentally our Alliance is now, as I said, both larger and stronger than it’s ever been.  And we see again and again and again that everything Putin sought to prevent, he’s actually precipitated by his actions, by his aggression; and there’s no clearer example of that than Sweden becoming a member of this Alliance. 

But even once that decision was made, none of this was easy.  None of this was obvious.  It’s taken two years – nearly two years – of tireless diplomacy, together with the extraordinary Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg to achieve ratification by every NATO member.  And again, the determination of Sweden’s leadership, the extraordinary diplomacy that it’s exerted, making sure that every question was answered, every challenge was met, every obstacle was overcome – that’s what brought us to today.

Now, some doubted that we’d get here.  We never did, and we are here.

This, of course, is also built on an extraordinary foundation of partnership between Sweden and NATO that goes back many, many years.  Sweden has long been an active partner with NATO Allies – training together, exercising together, working together.  And fundamentally, the reason this is such a strong, powerful fit is because Sweden embodies and promotes the core values that are at the heart of NATO: democracy, liberty, the rule of law.  And it also brings some unique capabilities to this enterprise – unique capabilities in the Arctic and Baltic Seas.  And this year, of course, Sweden will contribute more than 2 percent of its GDP to defense; and continue to show the way for all NATO members.

If you go back to 1949 at the signing of the NATO Treaty, President Truman said this, and I quote: “In taking steps to prevent aggression against our own peoples, we have no purpose of aggression against other peoples.  We hope to create a shield against aggression and the fear of aggression, a bulwark which will permit us to get on with the real business of government and society – the business of achieving a fuller and happier life for all of our citizens.”

That is fundamentally what this enterprise is all about, what NATO is all about.  It’s making sure that together we are creating an environment in which our people are safe, secure, and can meet their full potential.  Today we have fortified this shield – fortified the shield against aggression.  We brought more people under its protection so that together we can focus on the real work of delivering for our people.

With that, Mr. Prime Minister, the floor is yours.  (Applause.)

PRIME MINISTER KRISTERSSON:  Thank you so much Mr. Secretary, Antony.  Thank you so much. 

Today is a truly historic day.  Sweden is now member of NATO.  We are deeply grateful for the overwhelming bipartisan congressional support for Sweden’s accession, and for the strong leadership from the U.S. administration leading the way on ratification and security assurances. 

I would personally like to thank both President Biden and you, Secretary Blinken, for your invaluable efforts and personal commitments during the accession process.  I would also like to thank all NATO Allies, who have supported our accession and welcome Sweden as the 32nd member of the Alliance. 

We are humble, but we are also proud.  We will live up to high expectations from all NATO Allies.  United we stand.  Unity and solidarity will be Sweden’s guiding light as a NATO member, where we share burdens, responsibilities, and risks with other Allies.

Today is, as Secretary Blinken said, it’s a victory for freedom today.  Sweden has made a free, democratic, sovereign, and united choice to join NATO.  There is an overwhelming support in our parliament and among our people.  That is a strength, both for Sweden and for the Alliance.  And as a strong democracy, Sweden will stand for the values in the Washington Treaty, signed just a few blocks from here 75 years ago: freedom, democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law. 

Sweden is, as was mentioned, now leaving 200 years of neutrality and military non-alignment behind.  It is a major step – but at the same time, a very natural step.  Membership means that we are coming home to the Alliance for peace, and coming home to the Alliance for freedom, to which many democracies already belong – also home to our neighbors’ security cooperation, home to the circle of countries where we, for generations, have belonged.  We will defend freedom together with the countries closest to us, both in terms of geography, culture, and values.

The security situation in our region has not been this serious since the Second World War.  Russia will stay a serious threat to the Euro-Atlantic security for the foreseeable future.  It was in this light that Sweden applied to join the NATO defense alliance – to gain security, but also to provide security.  We have unique capabilities to contribute on land, in the air, at sea.  Our support to Ukraine is a fundamental part of that.  Ukraine is fighting bravely for its freedom, but they are also defending European freedom.

At the same time, we are strengthening our defense and doubling the defense budget right now.  From this year onwards, Sweden meets NATO’s standard of 2 percent of GDP to defense spendings.  This is important for NATO security, obviously, and to burden sharing.  We are increasing the numbers of conscripts, strengthening civil defense, and reintroducing civilian service in Sweden.  We have been prepared for this task for quite a while, and I’m very pleased to take this very final step.

Sweden is joining NATO is not the end of something.  It’s a beginning of something new.  I look forward to making the world safer and freer together with the United States and all other NATO Allies. 

And allow me, finally, a very short summary in Swedish.  (In Swedish.)  Thank you all so much.  (Applause.)

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originally published at Politics - JISIP NEWS