Nato Allies Warn Hungary Not To Hold Up Sweden's Membership As Us Patience Wears Thin

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, right, and US 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, right, and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan address a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
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BRUSSELS (AP) — U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that he and his NATO counterparts cautioned Hungary on Wednesday against further delaying Sweden’s membership in the military alliance, and he warned that patience in Washington has its limits.

Lawmakers from the party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán boycotted an emergency session of parliament on Monday where a vote was scheduled to place Sweden’s bid to join NATO on the legislative agenda, adding to 18 months of delays that have angered Hungary’s allies.

The governing Fidesz party, which holds an absolute majority in Hungary's parliament, has stalled Sweden’s bid since July 2022, alleging that Swedish politicians have told “blatant lies” about the state of Hungarian democracy. The party insists that Sweden’s prime minister must come to Hungary first.

“We heard security adviser after security adviser say that it’s past time for Sweden to get in, and to directly address the representative from Hungary,” Sullivan told reporters after a meeting of the organization’s top security officials at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Sullivan said that he and his colleagues had impressed upon Hungary that “it’s a matter of credibility and obligation that they take the necessary steps” to complete the parliamentary procedures to ratify Sweden’s accession.

Sweden, along with neighboring Finland, set aside decades of military nonalignment to seek protection under NATO’s collective security umbrella after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

Finland has since joined the trans-Atlantic alliance. The country, along with the other 30 allies, must all agree that Sweden should stand among NATO’s ranks. Hungary is the only member standing in its way.

Sullivan said that he wouldn't “stand here today and make particular threats, or speculation about steps that we would take down the road, but of course our patience on this can’t be unlimited either.”

He said the U.S. will “continue to watch it carefully, but hope that there is a constructive resolution to this issue in the very near term.”

Orbán, who has broken ranks with NATO allies by adopting a Kremlin-friendly stance toward Russia’s war in Ukraine, has said that he invited Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson to Budapest to discuss “future cooperation in the field of security and defense as allies and partners.”

Unless another emergency session of Hungary's parliament is called to debate Sweden’s bid, the assembly is due to sit for its regular session on Feb. 26.