Stockholm, 20 April 2023 (TDI): After a meeting with Defense Minister of Sweden, Pal Jonson, and Swedish Supreme Commander General, Micael Byden at the headquarters of the Swedish Navy on Musko Naval Base near Stockholm, the United States (US) Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III has commended Sweden for taking two significant steps to improve the relationship between the two democracies.

He has acknowledged the efforts made by Sweden in the past year to strengthen its already strong alliance with the US.

The first step that Austin mentioned was Sweden’s application for membership in NATO. Sweden’s neighbor, Finland, also applied for and was granted membership in NATO earlier this month.

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Most importantly, Austin noted that the US supports Sweden’s bid for NATO membership entirely, and he hopes that Sweden will become a member of NATO before the July NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The second step taken by Sweden to enhance its military relationship with the US was to embark on the development of a US-Sweden Defense Cooperation Agreement.

So, Defense Secretary Austin said that completing the negotiation of the agreement will allow for closer and deeper defense cooperation between the two countries.

To demonstrate the US support for Sweden’s NATO membership, Austin noted that the Department of Defense has increased the number of ship visits and bomber task force missions and high-level engagements with Sweden.

He believes that Sweden’s membership in NATO will lead to “a stronger alliance and a more secure Europe.”

In return, Swedish Defense Minister, Pal Jonson thanked Austin for the support the US has lent to Sweden’s bid to join NATO and for the ongoing security partnership the two nations enjoy.

Furthermore, Jonson also expressed gratitude for Austin’s leadership of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, noting that supporting Ukraine is the right thing to do, as it is fighting for its freedom and a safer and more secure Europe.

US Defense Secretary, Austin will host the 11th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group later this week at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. This meeting demonstrates the US commitment to supporting Ukraine and investing in the security of Europe.

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In a nutshell, Austin praised Sweden’s efforts to strengthen its alliance with the United States and noted that the partnership between the two democracies continues to flourish.

The United States fully supports Sweden’s bid for NATO membership and hopes that Sweden will become the 32nd member of NATO soon.