NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that the Western military alliance will carry out new troop deployments near Russia’s borders if Sweden requests to join – even before it is officially accepted in the bloc.
Stoltenberg spoke with SVT about Stockholm’s future membership application on Thursday. sa NATO can start immediately to strengthen the country’s defense during the process, which can take up to a year to complete.
“From the potential moment Sweden applies, and NATO says that they want Sweden to join, there is a very strong obligation from NATO to be able to guarantee Sweden’s security,” he said. “We have different ways of doing this, including through an increased presence of NATO forces in the area around Sweden and the Baltic Sea.”
The comments follow weeks of public discussion about Stockholm’s potential NATO application, as well as neighboring Finland. Although both have remained neutral throughout the military bloc’s existence, officials have claimed that Moscow’s attack on Ukraine in late February has significantly changed their view of regional security.
Washington – NATO’s main military power that effectively leads the bloc – has spoken positively about membership for both Nordic states, with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki repeating Stoltenberg’s comments during a Thursday briefing.
“We are convinced that we could find ways to address any concerns that both countries may have regarding the period between an application for NATO membership and the formal accession to the Alliance,” she said. saindicating that the United States could offer some form of security guarantee prior to their formal acceptance into the block.
Both nations will reportedly decide whether to submit applications sometime this month, and while lawmakers in Stockholm and Helsinki have already largely approved the idea, members of Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic Party have recently raised objections.
– We in the Federal Board have decided to be in line with our congressional decisions that Sweden should be militarily non-aligned and stand outside NATO, says Annika Strandhall, the country’s climate and environment minister and a prominent member of its women’s faction.
Stoltenberg has previously said that Sweden and Finland would be “warmly welcomed” to NATO and that their membership could even be accelerated, which indicates strong support for expanding the alliance to 32 members.
Moscow has strongly opposed these moves, having long rejected any further expansion to the east of the alliance (Finland’s rise would increase the border between NATO and Russia by more than 800 miles). Senior Russian officials also have warned that increased military deployments to the Baltic region – which includes NATO members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as Sweden and Finland – could even trigger the deployment of Russian nuclear and hypersonic weapons in the area to restore “balance” there.
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