Sweden to Allow NATO Troop on Its Soil

BRUSSELS — As optimism that Sweden will soon be able to join NATO rises, the Swedish government says it will allow the alliance to base troops on its territory even before formally joining the group.

“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 Defense Minister Pal Jonson said in an article for the Dagens Nyheter newspaper this week.

Those preparations could include the “temporary basing of foreign equipment and personnel on Swedish territory,” they wrote. “The decision sends a clear signal to Russia and strengthens Sweden’s defense.”

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 before a NATO summit in Lithuania next month.

A senior NATO-country ambassador said there was more confidence now that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, just re-elected for another five-year term, would support Sweden’s membership.

Turkey’s new foreign minister spoke to his Swedish counterpart on Wednesday. And next week, Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance’s secretary general, will meet with representatives of Turkey, Sweden and Finland.

Mr. Stoltenberg has said that Sweden has fulfilled Turkey’s demands, but Mr. Erdogan blocked Sweden’s membership during his re-election campaign, arguing that Stockholm has not done enough to fight terrorism — especially from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., which the United States and the European Union consider a terrorist group — and that it has not extradited some people Turkey wants.

But Sweden has in the last year amended its Constitution and toughened its antiterrorism law, which went into effect on June 1. It has also lifted an embargo on arms sales to Turkey.

In addition, the Swedish high court this week ruled that the government can extradite a Kurd who Turkey says is a supporter of the P.K.K. and is wanted in Turkey. The man, Mehmet Kokulu, was convicted in 2014 in Turkey for cannabis possession and was sentenced to four years and seven months in prison. After his release on parole, he legally traveled to Sweden in 2018, but Turkey has demanded his extradition, saying that he must complete his prison sentence there.

Should the optimism about Sweden prove accurate, Hungary is also expected to go along with ratifying Swedish NATO membership.

As negotiations among NATO allies continue before the Vilnius summit meeting next month, officials say there is a growing consensus that Denmark’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, could succeed Mr. Stoltenberg at the helm of the alliance. Ms. Frederiksen, 45, would be the first woman to hold the post and recently returned from a trip to Washington, where on Tuesday she met President Biden and other officials whose support would be vital.

A Social Democrat, she has been Denmark’s prime minister since 2019 and has promised to increase the country’s military spending to reach NATO’s target of 2 percent of economic output.

A senior NATO official said that France and others were insisting that a new secretary general come from a country that is part of the European Union, which would rule out Britain’s defense secretary, Ben Wallace, who has expressed interest in the job.

There is also the view, the official said, that candidates from Central Europe and the Baltics are too closely associated with an aggressive stance on Russia and rapid Ukrainian membership of the alliance to be able to achieve consensus. All 31 NATO countries must agree on a new secretary general.

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