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US to support Sweden during NATO accession process

An eager to join NATO Sweden has been assured by the United States of its support during the accession period, should the Nordic country file its application to become a member of the alliance.

While Sweden and neighbour Finland stayed out of NATO during the Cold War, Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, have led the countries to reconsider their security policies, with NATO membership looking increasingly plausible.

Given Russia’s expansive policy of plunder and destruction, remorselessly targeting even the most vulnerable, both countries showed concern at exposure to armed incursions during an application process, which could take up to a year to be approved by all 30 NATO members.

“Naturally, I’m not going to go into any details, but I feel very sure that now we have an American assurance,” Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde told Swedish TV from Washington after meeting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“However, not concrete security guarantees, those you can only get if you are a full member of NATO,” she stipulated.

FM Linde refrained from disclosing what assurances she had received from Mr Blinken.

“They would mean that Russia can be clear that if they direct any kind of negative activities against Sweden, which they have threatened, it would not be something that the US would just allow to happen … without a response,” she said.

The Kaliningrad wedge

A US State Department statement issued after the meeting said Mr Blinken had reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to NATO’s policy of welcoming new members, but it made no mention of security assurances.

Sweden’s defence minister noted the potential of Russia launching cyber attacks and hybrid scheming, such as propaganda campaigns designed to undermine Sweden’s security.

Such concerns are not unfounded as Moscow has warned it could deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles in the European exclave of Kaliningrad if Sweden and Finland become NATO members. On this note, it deserves a mention that the Kaliningrad region borders Poland — one of the most vocal and proactive allies of Ukraine and a proponent of NATO extension.

FM Linde, who is now set for a trip to Canada to discuss security matters with the Trudeau government, said the US was strongly supportive of Swedish and Finnish membership in NATO, which would increase stability in the Baltic and Arctic regions.

Both Sweden and Finland are expected to make a decision about whether to apply to join NATO this month.

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