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Swedish PM in London for meeting of UK-led Nordic defence group

Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson is in London to meet the leaders of the nine Nordic and Baltic countries in the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) grouping.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson poses for a photo with other leaders of countries in the JET defence grouping. Sweden's Prime Minister is above his right shoulder.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson poses for a photo with other leaders of countries in the JET defence grouping. Sweden’s Prime Minister is above his right shoulder. Photo: Justin Tallis/AP

Ahead of the meeting Andersson told the TT newswire that the countries had already decided to increase support given to Ukraine, and to further tighten sanctions on Russia, adding more figures from the Russian elite to the list of sanctioned people, and also stopping exports of luxury products to Russia. 

She stressed that JEF was not an alternative to cooperation with the Nato security alliance. 

“JEF is one way we cooperate,” she said. “Sweden is building its security on two tracks, one of which is giving a powerful boost to our military spending to strengthen our own defence capabilities.” 

The other, she said, was building alliances, of which JEF was one. “That’s [an area] where we are going to see increased activity, given the current security situation.”

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The UK-led expeditionary force groups together Sweden with the other Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Iceland), the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), and The Netherlands. It was formed in 2012, but Sweden did not join until 2017. Sweden and Finland are the only members of the group which are not also part of Nato. 

She said that the discussions would range around what joint exercises the group could carry out in future, further sanctions on Russia, and increased support for Ukraine. 

“We can’t only have sanctions, but also need to support the Ukrainian military,” Andersson said. “But it’s clear that sanctions are having an effect. The ruble is falling.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, will participate in the meeting through a video link. 

While in London, Magdalena Andersson will also hold bilateral meetings with Finland’s president Sauli Niinistö, and Iceland’s prime minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir. 

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BREAKING

Sweden to join Nato: ‘We are leaving one era and entering another”

Sweden on Monday officially announced it will apply for Nato membership as a deterrent against Russian aggression, entering a "new era" as it reverses two centuries of military non-alignment.

Sweden to join Nato: 'We are leaving one era and entering another''

In a joint press conference held with Ulf Kristersson, leader of the opposition Moderate Party, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said joining the alliance would act as a deterrent against Russian aggression. 

“The government has decided to inform Nato that Sweden wants to become a member of the alliance,” Andersson told reporters a day after neighbouring Finland made a similar announcement.

“We are leaving one era and beginning another,” she said, adding that Sweden’s Nato ambassador would “shortly” inform Nato.

Ulf Kristersson, whose party has long supported membership of the alliance, said that he wanted to put party political differences aside to support the government in its decision.  

“There are many major issues where we think differently, but we are going to take a joint responsibility for the process of taking Sweden into Nato,” he said. 

Sweden and Finland have both expressed a desire to act in lockstep on Nato membership and submit their applications jointly.

“We expect it shouldn’t take more than a year” for the alliance’s 30 members to unanimously ratify Sweden’s membership application, Andersson said.

The announcement was expected after her Social Democratic party on Sunday backed membership, in a dramatic turnaround after having opposed the idea since the birth of the Western military alliance.

It came after a debate in parliament in which all parties apart from the Green Party and Left Party spoke in favour of Sweden joining the alliance.  

“It is now clear that there is a broad majority in Sweden’s parliament for Sweden joining Nato,” she said. 

After Sweden’s announcement, Denmark, Norway and Iceland published a joint statement in which they promised to Sweden “by all means necessary” if the country is attacked in the gap between application and admission to the alliance. 

“Should Finland or Sweden be victims of aggression on their territory before obtaining Nato membership, we will assist Finland and Sweden by all means necessary,” the three countries said. “We immediately initiate preparations in order to effectuate these security assurances.”

Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, said on Monday that Sweden and Finland joining Nato did not represent a direct threat to Russia’s interests, but he said that if Nato began to site equipment on their territories, Russia would have to respond. 

“Russia has no problems with these states (Finland, Sweden). There is no immediate threat to Russia,” he said at a meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, which groups Russia with Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

“But the expansion of military infrastructure into this territory would certainly provoke our response,” he said.  

Sweden’s defence minister Peter Hultqvist is flying to Washington on Monday, where he will meet his counterpart Lloyd Austin.

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