Putin’s Nato dilemma: The Alliance’s expansion continues – Times of India

Putin's Nato dilemma: The Alliance's expansion continues - Times of India

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has made a decisive move that could reshape the geopolitical landscape, announcing Hungary’s intention to ratify Sweden’s Nato membership.
On Wednesday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban communicated his backing for Sweden’s accession to the security alliance during a telephone conversation with Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg. Stoltenberg welcomed the “good call” with Orban.
“I welcome the clear support of the Prime Minister and his government for Sweden’s NATO membership. I look forward to the ratification as soon as parliament reconvenes,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
This development is a significant setback for Russian President Vladimir Putinwho has long expressed concerns about the expansion of Nato, citing it as a factor in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. Despite these apprehensions, the alliance has seen growth since the onset of Putin’s invasion in February 2022, with Finland joining and Sweden poised to follow.
The path for Sweden’s Nato accession seems increasingly clear as potential hurdles, notably from Turkey and Hungary, are rapidly diminishing. Following Turkey’s parliamentary endorsement of Sweden’s membership, Orbán’s recent affirmation of support for Sweden’s inclusion in Nato adds momentum to the process. Orbán’s commitment was made public through a statement on X, where he expressed his advocacy for Sweden’s membership and his intention to prompt the Hungarian National Assembly to expedite the ratification process.
“I also stressed that we will continue to urge the Hungarian National Assembly to vote in favour of Sweden’s accession and conclude the ratification at the first possible opportunity,” he added.
Orban sent a letter to his Swedish counterpart Ulf Kristersson inviting him to Budapest to discuss the bid “at your earliest convenience”.
Awaiting legislative actions
While the Hungarian parliament is currently in recess until February 15, the legislative body’s endorsement of Sweden’s Nato membership, as advised by Orbán, could expedite Sweden’s entry into the alliance. However, the process also hinges on Turkish President Recep Erdoğan’s approval of his parliament’s bill.
Orbán: Putin’s ally?
Orbán, potentially poised to lead the European Council, is often viewed as one of Putin’s few allies among Nato leaders. Yet, his recent pro-Nato stance, coupled with Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico’s endorsement of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, signals a weakening of Russia’s support within the alliance. Sweden’s potential membership would further solidify Nato’s presence in the Baltic region, transforming the Baltic Sea into a strategic stronghold for the alliance, with only the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad remaining outside Nato’s fold.
Nato kicks off the largest military exercise since the Cold War
Meanwhile, On Wednesday, Nato launched its most extensive military drill in recent decades, marking a significant moment as a US warship embarked from the United States, navigating across the Atlantic towards European territories of the alliance.
Nato has announced the participation of approximately 90,000 troops in the Steadfast Defender 24 exercise, a comprehensive operation spanning several months, aimed at evaluating the alliance’s defensive strategies amidst the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
General Christopher Cavoli, Nato’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, emphasized the exercise’s significance, stating, “The alliance will demonstrate its ability to reinforce the Euro-Atlantic area via trans-Atlantic movement of forces from North America.” He further highlighted the exercise’s broader implications, asserting, “Steadfast Defender 2024 will be a clear demonstration of our unity, strength, and determination to protect each other, our values and the rules-based international order.”
Designed to replicate the alliance’s collective response to a potential assault from adversaries such as Russia, Steadfast Defender 24 will encompass a variety of focused drills, extending from North America to the vicinity of Nato’s eastern boundaries, adjacent to Russia.
The exercise will witness the deployment of an impressive array of military assets, including around 50 naval vessels, 80 aircraft, and over 1,100 combat vehicles. This monumental drill, the largest since the 1988 Reforger exercise during the Cold War era, occurs as Nato has significantly revamped its defensive postures following Russia’s incursion into Ukraine in 2022.
In response to the heightened tensions, the alliance has strategically positioned thousands of troops along its eastern front and has formulated its most comprehensive defensive strategies since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, aiming to fortify its members against potential Russian aggression.
(With inputs from agencies)

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