Stockholm: Following the accession of Sweden into the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) on Thursday as the 32nd member of the alliance, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has called it a "victory for freedom."

With a gathering of top Swedish officials, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson was in Washington on Thursday to mark the occasion. He has been invited to see Thursday evening's State of the Union speech by US President Joe Biden, Politico reported.

A demanding application procedure that started on May 17, 2022, came to an end with Sweden's inclusion in NATO.

"It's a victory for freedom today," PM Kristersson said after Sweden's accession to NATO.

"Sweden is ... leaving 200 years of neutrality and military nonalignment behind. It is a major step, but at the same time, a very natural step," he said.

Acknowledging this "has been a little bit of a road" for Sweden, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken turned to Kristersson and said: "We've known from Day 1 that we'd be here today," according to Politico. Blinken also called it a "strategic debacle" for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago, Sweden abandoned its long-standing neutrality and joined NATO on Thursday, becoming the organization's newest member. After Hungary--the last of the 31 alliance countries to approve Sweden--submitted its ratification document, the membership became official.

Sweden is now fully covered by Article 5 of the alliance, which requires all other members to defend one another in the event of an attack.

In order to celebrate the accession formally, a flag-raising ceremony has been planned for Monday (March 11) at the alliance headquarters in Brussels, according to Politico.

Finland, Sweden's neighbour, became a member of the alliance on April 4 last year. With the two Nordic countries in the alliance, NATO controls almost all of the Baltic Sea.

Both a robust armaments industry and a well-equipped military are present in Sweden.

The nation intends to spend 2.1 per cent of GDP on defence this year, about twice as much as it did in 2020 and over NATO's target, as per Politico.

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