Tolgfors touts closer EU-Nato ties during Pentagon talks

Swedish defence minister Sten Tolgfors called for closer cooperation between the European Union and Nato during meetings with his American counterpart in Washington on Tuesday.

In a meeting with US defence secretary Robert Gates, Tolgfors discussed how the EU and Nato could improve and expand cooperation between the two organizations, citing elections scheduled to take place in Afghanistan on August 20th.

“The EU has sent election observers but it’s Nato who is in charge of security. It’s important to makes sure we don’t overlap or that we leave gaps in our efforts,” Tolgfors told the TT news agency.

He added that he doesn’t think that having Sweden move closer to Nato threatens the country’s policy of non-alignment.

“It’s not at all about paragraph 5, about joining a common defence pact, but about coordinating common efforts,” he said, referencing the clause in the Nato pact calling on members to defend other members in the event of an attack.

He thinks that American foreign policy has changed course since Barack Obama became president – a change welcomed by Sweden.

He also welcomed Sweden’s cooperation with Nato – pointing out that increased cooperation was possible even without joining the alliance.

“Nato itself says that Sweden is its most important partner country. On the other hand, the government has said that membership isn’t on the political agenda – at least during this term in office,” said Tolgfors.

In addition to discussing joint efforts with Nato, Tolgfors also informed the American defence secretary about the government’s plans for transforming the Swedish military away from compulsory military service and towards voluntarily recruited operational forces which can be deployed quickly.

“Robert Gates thought it was the right way to go,” said Tolgfors.

Gates succeeded Donald Rumsfeld as the United States’ Secretary of Defence during the second term of former President George W. Bush. His reappointment by President Obama marks the first time a sitting defence secretary has been asked to stay by a newly elected president.

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