Obama is set to land in Stockholm’s Arlanda airport early on Wednesday morning for a busy two-day schedule including meets with Nordic prime ministers and the Swedish royal family.
He may reprise some of the arguments he made when he picked up his Nobel prize in Oslo in 2009, when he effectively made a case for when a US president may choose to wage war – to protect American security, for humanitarian reasons, or to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
Obama headed for Sweden and the G20 summit in Russia after making important political headway at home when top Republican leaders firmly backed his plan to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for a chemical weapons attack.
The US president decided to seek congressional approval in a surprise development on Saturday, saying he is ready to launch “limited” action despite Russia’s decision to prevent the UN Security Council framing a mandate for action.
Obama does not currently have any one-on-one meetings scheduled with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but the two leaders will run into each other at the inevitable photocalls of the G20 summit in St Petersburg on Friday.
Officials say however, that with press conferences in Sweden planned for Wednesday and in Russia on Friday, the president will be able to make forceful interventions in the debate back home.
When he arrives in Stockholm, Obama will hold talks with Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, in the first-ever bilateral visit by an incumbent US president to the country.
They will discuss climate change, defense and security cooperation and trade and development, as well as key foreign policy challenges including Syria and Egypt, a senior US official said.
Obama will then celebrate the life of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who rescued thousands of Jews from Nazi-occupied Hungary – on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
On Wednesday evening, Obama will attend a dinner hosted by Sweden for the President of Finland and the prime ministers of Denmark, Iceland and Norway. He is due to leave Sweden on Thursday afternoon.