US Signs Defense Deal With Sweden As NATO Membership Looms

Sweden and the United States last Tuesday signed a defense cooperation agreement that will grant the US access to all Swedish military bases to bolster regional security, the Associated Press reported.

The December 5 deal, which was signed at the Pentagon by Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, will “create better conditions for Sweden” to receive US support “in the event of a war or crisis,” according to Jonson.

Jonson told the Swedish outlet SVT that the agreement doesn’t mean that all 17 military bases will be used by the United States. Instead, the US will have access to the bases where it would be vital from a military standpoint to store defense equipment.

Secretary Lloyd said by adding the capabilities of Sweden’s armed forces, NATO “will get even stronger.” He said the agreement would send a “strong signal” that the US is “committed to addressing security challenges together.”

A similar defense cooperation agreement was signed in 2021 between the United States and Sweden’s western neighbor Norway. The US is also negotiating similar agreements with Finland and Denmark.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine both Sweden and Finland decided to drop their long-standing non-alignment policy and apply for membership to NATO, which requires unanimous approval by the existing NATO member countries.

Finland’s membership in NATO was formally ratified in April.

However, Sweden’s application has not been formally approved by NATO members Hungary and Turkey.

Turkey, which has delayed Sweden’s entry into the alliance for more than a year, has accused the Scandinavian country of not taking Turkey’s security concerns seriously, particularly in its fight against Kurdish militants and other sectarian groups Ankara considers security threats.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last Wednesday suggested that Sweden’s NATO membership could be ratified if Congress approved Turkey’s request to buy forty F-16 fighter jets and the kits needed to modernize its existing fleet of aircraft.