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Swedish defense minister says Sweden to not join NATO while he holds post

Sweden's membership in NATO would mean fundamentally changing security line, affecting safety of its immediate region, says Hultqvist

Atila Altuntas   | 10.03.2022
Swedish defense minister says Sweden to not join NATO while he holds post

STOCKHOLM

Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said on Thursday that his country will not join NATO as long as he is the defense minister.

"Sweden will never become a member of NATO as long as I am the minister of defense," Hultqvist had said on his country's state television in November last year.

Recalling his remarks, he said: "I have the same opinion, I say the same thing without using the word 'never'."

"The situation we came to has taught me not to use the word 'never',” he added.

Sweden does not look warmly at NATO membership for the security of the nearby regions, Hultqvist stressed, saying: "Sweden's membership in NATO means fundamentally changing the security line. This affects the safety of our immediate region."

He said his country will make the largest investment of all time in military defense, with 2% of gross domestic product to be allocated to defense.

According to the local media outlets, Sweden budgeted $6.5 billion for military defense last year, while the amount will be raised to $11 billion due to the Russia-Ukraine war.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson had also said Wednesday that it is not at her country’s stake to be a member of the alliance for now.

She had reiterated the remarks she made the previous day that "Sweden does not look warmly at NATO membership."

Andersson had noted, however, that they are "not sitting still in the boat."

"After the risk environment raised by the Russian military took on an aggressive tone, we strengthened Sweden's defense and increased our international cooperation.

"The basis of the European security system is formed by the fact that each country implements its own security policy. So we created our own security system," she had added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has cited NATO’s expansion as an issue in launching Russia’s war on Ukraine. Moscow has also warned of military consequences if either Finland or Sweden was to join the alliance.

Sweden will develop security cooperation with the US and neighboring countries, Andersson said they will strengthen their defense with the US and Finland due to Russia's aggressive attitude towards Ukraine and European security.

Russia's war on Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24, has drawn international condemnation, led to financial sanctions on Moscow, and spurred an exodus of global companies from Russia.

At least 516 civilians have been killed and 908 others injured in Ukraine so far, according to UN figures, with the real toll feared to be higher.

More than 2.3 million people have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries, according to the UN refugee agency.

*Writing by Merve Berker in Ankara.

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