Sweden says US assurances on potential NATO membership

Sweden says US assurances on potential NATO membership

On May 7, 2018, two men arrive at the entrance of the building housing the NATO headquarters in Brussels. JOHN THYS AFP STOCKHOLM -- Sweden received assurances from the United States that it would receive support during the period when a potential application to join NATO is processed by the 30 nations in the alliance, Foreign Minister Ann Linde said in Washington on Wednesday.

Sweden and Finland stayed out of NATO during the Cold War, but Russia annexated Crimea in 2014 and its special military operation against Ukraine have led to a rethink of their security policies, with NATO membership looking increasingly likely to be a reality.

Both countries are concerned that they would be vulnerable during the application process, which could take up to a year to be approved by all NATO members.

I'm not going to go into any details, but I feel very sure that now we have an American assurance, Linde told Swedish TV from Washington after meeting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

She said that security guarantees aren't concrete, but you can only get those if you are a full member of NATO.

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Linde didn't say what assurances she had received from Blinken.

They would mean that Russia could be clear that if they conduct any negative activities against Sweden, which they have threatened, it would not be something that the US would allow to happen without a response, she said.

A statement from the US State Department said that Blinken had reaffirmed Washington's commitment to NATO's policy of welcoming new members, but it made no mention of security assurances.

Sweden's defense minister said last month that an application could trigger a number of responses from Russia, including cyber attacks and hybrid measures - such as propaganda campaigns - to undermine Sweden's security.

Moscow has warned that if Sweden and Finland become NATO members, it could deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles in the European exclave of Kaliningrad.

Linde, who will be traveling to Canada to discuss security matters with its government, said the United States strongly supported Swedish and Finnish membership in NATO, which would increase stability in the Baltic and Arctic regions.

Sweden and Finland are expected to make a decision on whether or not to join NATO this month.