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Sweden raises defense budget in line with NATO’s 2% goal

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Sweden increased its defense budget to 2% of its gross domestic product (GDP) to meet the target established by NATO, as it awaits Türkiye and Hungary’s approval to become a member of the Western military alliance.

NATO candidate Sweden plans to increase its defense budget to 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) from next year, to meet the target for military spending set by the Western defense alliance.

The increase was announced by Swedish Defence Minister Pål Jonson on Monday, according to the TT news agency. In total, Sweden’s defense budget will rise by around €2.2 billion ($2.36 billion). Around €58 million of that will be set aside for the defense alliance’s administrative fees, Jonson said, “because we assume that we will become a part of the NATO alliance.”

Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership in May 2022.

Sweden desperately seeks the approval of Türkiye, a key ally of NATO, as it hopes to join Finland, whose membership was approved by Ankara earlier, as the security concerns escalated amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The NATO member states reaffirmed their goal of spending at least 2% of GDP on defense at the NATO summit in Vilnius in July.

Although Türkiye approved Finland’s membership to NATO, it is waiting for Sweden to fulfill its commitments not to provide shelter to terrorists and supporters of terrorists, and not to greenlight their actions.

Stockholm reassured Türkiye that it would not support terrorist organizations, including the PKK, its Syrian affiliate YPG or the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), in the aftermath of its NATO membership and that a new bilateral security mechanism will be created between Ankara and Stockholm. NATO will also establish a Special Coordinator on Counterterrorism for the first time in the bloc’s history.

Before the NATO summit in Lithuania, Erdoğan told NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that Sweden must stop the PKK terrorist organization from freely organizing protests in the country to get a green light on its NATO membership bid.

Sweden, along with Denmark, is also repeatedly criticized for allowing anti-Islam acts, particularly public burnings of the Quran, the holy book of millions of Muslims. In recent months, incidents of Quran desecration in both countries prompted outrage among Muslims, who called for the countries to ban the acts.

Türkiye was among the most vocal critics of the burnings. Though the Swedish government condemned the acts and announced measures to prevent desecration, they also insisted on adhering to the “freedom of expression” of the people involved in incidents. The burnings were not widespread at first but became more commonplace after Rasmus Paludan, a Danish-Swedish far-right politician, launched a new spate of burnings in Denmark and Sweden, for what he called a reaction to Türkiye’s opposition to the Swedish NATO bid.

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