UNITED STATES NEWS

Biden will host Sweden’s prime minister at the White House as the Nordic nation seeks to join NATO

Jul 1, 2023, 6:28 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will host Sweden’s prime minister at the White House on Wednesday in a show of solidarity as the United States presses for the Nordic nation’s entry into NATO, a bid stalled by objections from two members of the Western military alliance.

Biden and Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson plan to “review our growing security cooperation and reaffirm their view that Sweden should join NATO as soon as possible,” the White House said a statement Saturday. The leaders also will discuss the war in Ukraine and China.

Sweden and neighbor Finland dropped their long-standing military neutrality after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and applied for NATO membership, seeking protection under the organization’s security umbrella.

Finland, which shares an 832-mile (1,340 kilometer) border with Russia, joined NATO in April. Sweden, which has avoided military alliances for more than 200 years, has seen its ascension delayed by Turkey and Hungary; NATO requires the unanimous approval of all members to expand.

NATO had hoped the road to Sweden’s membership would be smoothed out before the alliance’s summit July 11-12 in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Sweden’s entry would be a highly symbolic moment and the latest indication of how Russia’s war is driving countries to join the alliance.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has resisted, with his government accusing Sweden of being too lenient toward groups that it says pose a security threat, including militant Kurdish organizations and people associated with a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.

This past week, he condemned Sweden over a Quran-burning protest. Swedish police allowed the protest outside a mosque in central Stockholm, citing freedom of speech after a court overturned a ban on a similar Quran-burning.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he would gather senior officials from Turkey, Sweden and Finland this coming Thursday to try to overcome Turkey’s objections.

Hungary also has yet to ratify Sweden’s bid. Hungarian lawmakers said a long-delayed parliamentary vote on that would not would not happen until the autumn legislative session.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government has alleged that Swedish politicians have told “blatant lies” about the condition of his country’s democracy. High-ranking Hungarian officials have said they support Sweden’s membership bid while also making vague demands from Stockholm as conditions for approval.

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Biden will host Sweden’s prime minister at the White House as the Nordic nation seeks to join NATO