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Sweden, US express hope for NATO expansion by July

Sweden, US express hope for NATO expansion by July

Sweden still hopes to join NATO for a summit in Vilnius, Lithuania in July, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said in a statement Friday, echoed by a senior government official.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted Sweden and Finland last year to abandon their long-standing military non-alignment policies and seek the protection of NATO’s Collective Security Treaty.

Finland joined NATO last month, but Sweden’s membership was blocked by objections from Turkey and Hungary.

“There will be no plan B or anything like that. Plan B is plan A – this is full membership of NATO and that is what the government and I will work on in Vilnius,” Billstrom told reporters.

The US State Department’s top diplomat for Europe expressed hope that Sweden will remain a member of the alliance until the July 11-12 summit, when NATO leaders meet in the Lithuanian capital.

“We have had extensive negotiations with the Turkish government – including our own – and Sweden is now ready to become a member,” Acting Assistant Secretary Derek Hogan told reporters.

“Ahead of the Vilnius summit, we are very much looking forward to seeing both Turkey and Hungary ratify Sweden’s annexation protocol as soon as possible,” Hogan said, adding that Washington and others will discuss the matter with the Turkish government after Sunday’s second round of presidential elections.

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