Sweden deepens military ties with US

Sweden is to expand and deepen its military ties with America due to Russian aggression. In a Saturday interview in Dagens Nyheter. Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist said that the deepening cooperation between the two countries will involve five different areas. 

Last Wednesday, the former presidential candidate John McCain, who chairs the US Senate Armed Services Committee, led a US delegation to Stockholm to meet Sweden's foreign and defence ministers and military officials.

Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist, who himself was in Washington back in May, told DN that the meeting with the Republican senator was much more than a courtesy visit.

"John McCain has chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee which has a very central role in American politics, although he did not belong to the administration. Mr.McCain coming here is not merely a courtesy visit, but it is part of a process in several stages which is about deepening and developing our cooperation with the US."

The closer military cooperation will centre on five areas, according to Peter Hultqvist.

1. Interoperability - which means that the two countries' forces will work better together.

2. Training and education - will increase military capacity. At the end of September, for example, US jets and tanker aircraft based in the UK are to practice with the Swedish and Norwegian planes over the Arctic.

3. Material Cooperation - the defence minister said that this has long been an important area of ​​cooperation with the United States. Sweden's two highest priority projects are the Gripen system (the contents of which 50 percent are American) and submarines - both systems were seen in person by John McCain during his visit.

4. Research - including with the Swedish Defence Research Agency, FOI, which Mr. McCain visited.

5. International operations - like in Iraq, where Sweden is sending 35 servicemen in cooperation with the US to train Iraqi units in the fight against Islamic state.

Peter Hultqvist told Dagens Nyheter that the increased cooperation with the US is justified because Russia has shaken the security arrangements applicable in Europe since the Cold War, 1991.

"Russia has annexed the Crimea in violation of international law and drives the military conflict in Ukraine. The Russian regime is authoritarian and very nationalistic in its attitude.It has helped to change the security order in Europe and it is a very harsh reality that we have to live with," the defence minister said.

The new security situation has led to an increase in Sweden's defense spending. Mr. Hultqvist explains that he is now implementing the parliamentary defence decision from June. The decision means that Sweden is to deepen military cooperation with such countries as Finland, NATO and the United States.

"For Sweden, it is necessary to participate in international exercises if we are going to be able to practice in larger formations and drive-up our military capability. The choice of the place of the exercise, the choice of operation and the choice of countries to practice with will also be in effect security policy signals. They are in fact balanced in the situation we are living in," says Peter Hultqvist.

Asked whether he saw anything negative with closer military ties to the US, the defence minister said that it was a necessity.

"I start from today's reality, and have no ambition to review history. I can only conclude that, as the situation has arrived on our doortsep, it is in Swedish interests to develop our cooperation with neighbouring countries and also strengthen the transatlantic link. It is necessary also for European safety," he said.