NATO may base troops in Sweden before Stockholm joins, government says
PHOTO CAPTION: U.S. Marines with Force Reconnaissance, and Swedish Marines with 2d Marine Battalion, conduct live fire pistol drills during exercise Archipelago Endeavor 2022 (AE22), at Berga Naval Base, Sweden, Sept. 9, 2022. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Adam Scalin via U.S. Defense Visual Information Distribution Service)
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden will allow NATO to base troops on its territory even before it formally joins the defence alliance, the prime minister and defence minister said on Friday.
Sweden applied last year to join NATO as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Objections from Turkey and Hungary have delayed the bid and Sweden now hopes to join by a NATO summit in Lithuania next month.
"The government has decided that the Swedish Armed Forces may undertake preparations with NATO and NATO countries to enable future joint operations," Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Defence Minister Pal Jonson said.
"The preparations may consist of temporary basing of foreign equipment and personnel on Swedish territory. The decision sends a clear signal to Russia and strengthens Sweden's defence," they said in an opinion piece in daily Dagens Nyheter.
Russia would for the foreseeable future remain a threat against neighbouring countries, they said, and they were uncertain of the extent of President Vladimir Putin's territorial ambitions.
Fellow Nordic country Finland, which has a long border with Russia, joined NATO in April.
(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Angus MacSwan)