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Government keen on Nato forces in Sweden

Published: 27 Aug 2014 10:50 GMT+02:00

Defence Minister Karin Enström told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper that the decision could be approved on Thursday. The move follows months of speculation after the Swedish military asked the government to discuss the matter with Nato last autumn.

Talks are believed to now be complete with both Sweden and Nordic neighbours Finland set to sign up to the deal.

Under the 'host country agreement' Nato would be able to carry out military training in Sweden. The agreement would also include a guarantee for the safe transportation of troops by land, air or sea.

"We have come very far and it may be a government decision on Thursday," Enström told the newspaper.

Enström said Nato would not be able to deploy in Sweden against the government's wishes.

The decision is unlikely to be a precursor to Sweden becoming a fully fledged member of the alliance, according to the National Defence College (Försvarshögskolan). 

"This is really a case of Sweden wanting to show that they have done their homework and have something to show at the Nato summit in Wales next month," Magnus Christensson, military strategist at the defence college told The Local. 
 
He added: "Sweden is part of a frontrunner group discussing enhanced opportunities within Nato and this agreement is a part of that. I don't think we can say this is the latest step to full membership but Sweden is certainly becoming closer to Nato." 
 
Election favourites the Social Democrats have long been opposed to joining the military alliance. Christensson said Nato wouldn't be an election issue as he felt none of the parties had anything to gain by making it a topic at the polls. 
 
"In order for Sweden to become a full member of Nato there would need to be a serious threat and right now Russia is making a case for that. Being outside would also need to come at a cost and the Social Democrats would need to change their attitude on the matter completely." 

Sweden has participated in Nato operations since the Bosnian war in the early nineties. In March The Local reported that over a thousand Swedish troops participated in a Nato training exercise close to the Russian border.

In a recent survey one in three Swedes supported the prospect of the country joining Nato. Sweden is currently a Nato partner, not a member, with full membership long a bone of contention between the major political parties. 

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