Two years ago, Russia launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Two months later, Sweden and Finland abandoned their neutral global positioning and made the formal request to become members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO.

In an effort to present a united front and stand against Russian President Vladimir Putin, the two countries made their case to the international military alliance. Finland was admitted last year, but Sweden has been blocked by the more Kremlin-friendly Turkey and Hungary.

Turkey eventually agreed to Sweden’s accession in January, leaving Hungary as the final holdout. But earlier this week, Sweden finally crossed the line and became the 32nd member state of NATO.

What does this mean for the Russia-Ukraine war? Boston University Professor of International Relations and History Igor Lukes joined GBH’s All Things Considered host Arun Rath to discuss if this positioning will send an effective message to Moscow. What follows is a lightly edited transcript for clarity.

Arun Rath: I mentioned that Turkey and Hungary were the last two holdouts; let’s take them on individually. With Turkey it seemed that the official reason has to do with concerns about Kurdish separatists and the treatment of the Quran.

Igor Lukes: That’s right. [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan has, of course, positioned himself as a defender of the faith and a defender of Turkish territorial integrity. His government expressed concerns about the Koran and Sweden being too liberal, too open—too just, if you will—toward its Kurdish immigrants.

I think ultimately this was actually just posturing and that he was hoping to get something out of it. He ultimately did the right thing and accepted NATO enlargement.

Rath: Do you have a sense of what Erdoğan got out of this?

Lukes: It’s not entirely clear to me. There were meetings between Sweden and Turkey that were designed to mitigate the tensions, but I don’t think there was any genuine change that Erdoğan could have expected—or indeed even received—because Sweden obviously is not going to change its system of justice. It is what it is, and Erdoğan must have known that. I think he postponed because he believed it was a smart negotiating tactic.

Rath: When it comes to Hungary—I mean, we could spend this whole interview talking about the situation in Hungary right now, but as much as you can boil it down—why was Hungary the final holdout?

Lukes: That has been a mystery for many years now—how somebody like the present leader of Hungary [Viktor Orban] could change so drastically from 1989, when he was a long-haired student advocating the cause of openness, liberalism and democracy.

He was studying in Britain, I believe, at Oxford for some time, and enjoying the fellowship that was paid for by George Soros, of whom Erdoğan now criticizes as the devil incarnate. No one really understands what’s happened to him.

I fear that Ockham’s razor applies here, meaning that the simplest explanation is most likely the accurate one. I think he fell in love with power, and he’s done everything he could to design a system that would maintain him at the top of the power pyramid in perpetuity.

Rath: In the face of an aggressive Russia that has attacked Georgia and Ukraine, annexed Crimea and invaded Ukraine more recently, how much stronger is NATO and its expansion with Sweden and Finland?

Lukes: It’s a fantastic advantage for NATO and a great disadvantage to Russia. Only a glance at the map will tell you that the geopolitical advantage is enormous. Sweden and Finland are right there; NATO countries like Denmark, Canada or Italy are far away.

They also have no history of conflicts with Russia, whereas both Sweden and Finland do. In the case of Sweden, there were many wars between the kings of Sweden and the rulers of Russia starting in the 15th century and culminating, of course, in the Napoleonic Wars, which ultimately brought about the institution of Swedish neutrality.

Right now, that’s interrupted. It changed drastically by Mr. Putin’s policies of aggression in the 21st century. It is a self-inflicted wound caused by Putin to Russia. It is thanks to his aggression that NATO has now received new members that bring in tens of thousands of highly trained troops.

In the case of Finland, it’s close to 300,000 trained troops. In the case of Sweden, you have a powerful, well-trained military that receives at least 5,000 new recruits annually. They now plan to expand it by doubling it to 10,000 annually.

The Swedish defense industry is famous. Its Gripen—the fighter plane Sweden co-produces with Britain—is probably the only rival to the F-16 and F-35. Swedish armored personnel carriers are very highly regarded. They even make tanks. Sweden also brings in submarines and sailors with loads of knowledge involving the shallow Baltic area, where you really need to know what you’re doing.

That brings up the memory—I don’t know if you remember it, but in the 1980s, there were repeated intrusions by Soviet submarines into Swedish territorial waters. In fact, one of them ended up being beached. The captain got lost and he ended up beaching the vessel. Putin renewed these violations of Swedish territory in 2008, which also contributed to Sweden’s sense that they needed to join the alliance.