Chris Hipkins visits Sweden as it gets greenlight to join NATO

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has arrived in Lithuania for the NATO summit and has secured a meeting there with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, set for Thursday morning NZ time.

Before that, he was in Sweden, where the usually neutral country was approved entry into the military alliance.

Sausage rolls were traded for pies, Belgium traded for Sweden and trade talks traded for global security. 

"Clearly, Europe is very attuned to what is going on in Ukraine, it is the number one topic everywhere I have been," Hipkins said.

Especially in Sweden - in the land of Abba, Ikea and up-until-now neutrality. 

The NATO summit is a historic one for Sweden. Staunchly neutral for generations, the country has been desperately awaiting word that its application to join the military alliance has been approved.

It is securing protection against its Russian neighbour.

"Of course, it's very important, it's for a good reason that Sweden, after 200 years of non-alignment have applied for NATO membership," Hipkins said.

But the Nordic nation needed unanimous support from the 31 current NATO members - and as of this morning, Turkey was still blocking the bid.

Turkey took issue with Sweden's support for Kurdish groups, which Turkey deems to be terrorists. 

The Prime Minister wanted to visit Sweden to acknowledge the country's support in getting our new free trade deal with the EU across the line but on the eve of the NATO summit, what happens in Lithuania is dominating conversations all over town. 

By mid-afternoon, Prime Minister Kristersson had been rushed to Vilnius for high-stake talks with Erdogan. By 11pm - a three-way handshake revealed the deal, a stunning about-face from Turkey signalling Sweden's ratification can now commence. 

Hard fought but finally secured, NATO now has a much tougher question to tackle - can Ukraine join too?