Sweden and the United States have signed an agreement giving the US military access to 17 Swedish bases, which has been viewed as a response to Budapest and Ankara delaying Stockholm’s NATO bid.
The military agreement is the first of its kind between the two countries and will allow the US to conduct military exercises and refuel its military aircraft and ships in Sweden.
Under the deal, the US military will be permitted to store weapons and ammunition at various bases within Sweden but will have to inform the government in detail about what is being imported – which, as Swedish Defence Minister Pål Jonson said, will not include nuclear weapons.
“No, Sweden’s position is well known,” the defence minister said in an interview with Swedish National Radio, adding that Sweden sees “no need or reason to have nuclear weapons on our territory, and the United States respects that.”.
But some say the deal is more of a way around the fact that Sweden is still not a NATO member, as Hungary and Turkey continue to delay the ratification process in their respective countries. Earlier this year, both gave assurances that their respective parliaments would soon ratify Sweden’s application, but nothing has happened yet.
And in an increasingly tense geopolitical context, it appears the US cannot wait for the approvals of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
“This means we don’t have to wait for certain decision-makers who are lagging, and we can prepare the ground for the day when Sweden finally joins NATO.“, a source with knowledge of the file told Euractiv.
Compared to an agreement reached last year between the US and Norway, which gave the US access to only four sites, the agreement with Sweden is more far-reaching, listing 17 sites from Kiruna, Boden and Luleå in the north to Ronneby and Revingehed in the south of the country.
“These are existing military garrisons or sites; it is not a question of establishing new American bases, and it can be a limited area,” Jonson said.
He added that the Swedish Armed Forces and the US have negotiated and agreed on suitable locations that can create suitable conditions for ground, sea or air combat units.
” There is a military logic underpinning the choice of sites,”’ he said.
On the difference between US access in Norway and Sweden, Jonson says that Sweden is a large and elongated country.
“There may be reasons to have more sites than Norway has. It is by no means certain that all 17 will be utilised, but there is room for manoeuvre.”, the minister added.
For the agreement to come into force, the Swedish parliament must approve the bill, which will be submitted by the government with a three-fourths majority – with Johnson expecting the bill to come into force within a year.
(Charles Szumski | Euractiv.com)
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