U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reiterated on Friday that he expects Sweden to join NATO soon.
Speaking at a meeting with key Western allies at the Ramstein U.S. air base in Germany on Friday, Austin said: “I’d note that Finland, which has long taken part in this contact group, is here today as a new NATO ally. I expect that Sweden will soon follow.”
Despite some wrangling surrounding Sweden’s NATO membership, the United States is still assuming that the country will be admitted to the defense alliance by the time it holds its summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius in the summer.
Austin had made that clear in remarks on Wednesday at the Swedish naval port of Muskö.
Austin told his Swedish counterpart Pal Jonson that Finland had recently been welcomed as the 31st member of NATO, adding that he hoped Sweden would be welcomed as the 32nd soon.
“We look forward to continuing to advocate for your swift admission to NATO, and we’ll work hard to get that done before the summer,” he said. “I think that’s really, really important.”
“You’re a great partner,” Austin told Jonson. “We look forward to, very soon, being able to call you an ally.”
Sweden applied for NATO membership in May 2022 together with Finland, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Finland officially became a NATO member on April 4 after all member states agreed to the country’s accession, but Sweden is still waiting for ratification from Turkey and Hungary.
The Turkish leadership continues to accuse Sweden of a lack of commitment against “terrorist organizations” – in particular the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Budapest, on the other hand, takes offense at Swedish statements on the rule of law and corruption in Hungary.
Washington is encouraging NATO allies Turkey and Hungary to ratify Sweden’s accession as soon as possible.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also recently said that the German government continued to assume that Sweden would have joined Finland as a new member by the time of the NATO summit in Lithuania.
Source : The Brunswick News