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Foreign Minister Peter Hultqvist: ‘Huge government in Sweden and Finland’

In recent days Defense Secretary Peter Holtqvist has held meetings with both US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Democrats and Republicans in the US Congress.

There is very broad and deep support for the application of Sweden and Finland for membership in NATO. It is very clear. We are very welcome. He says the signal is that you want to make a decision ASAP and you will work for it too.

On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden came out and formally announced that the United States is working with Finland and Sweden to remain vigilant against all threats to security and to deter and confront aggression while considering membership of the two countries.

The debate about how Sweden and Finland dealt with the period in the gray zone – before the Scandinavian countries received security guarantees from NATO – became an important part of Peter Holtqvist’s meeting with his American colleague Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon.

Peter Hultqvist and Press Secretary Tony Ericsson at the press conference at Sweden House in Washington.

Peter Hultqvist and Press Secretary Tony Ericsson at the press conference at Sweden House in Washington.

Photo: Karen Erickson

Peter Hultqvist cannot provide any written agreement, but says concrete planning is underway

– It concerns the naval presence in the Baltic Sea, strategic flight exercises, it relates to various exercises and activities on the army side, he tells DN.

When can presence be strengthened?

– I think we have started working on this issue. We had a NATO flagship in Stockholm just a few weeks ago with other ships and we already have training activities planned that we might raise some levels.

How safe do you feel with the messages you receive from the United States?

– Obviously they will. They will stand up for it. I’m not worried about that.

Why does the United States sympathize with Sweden as a member of NATO?

– Obviously they should describe it themselves in the first place. But this, of course, would be an extension of the entire alliance. We get another strategic depth in the Nordic region with Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland eventually. Based on this, we can come up with a plan in which the different defense forces will complement each other.

hIs the debate in NATO changing due to a greater presence of the countries of the North?

– You’ll see how it evolves. Of course, from our point of view, we will contribute to the coalition, with the military resources that we have and the planning that we can do. Then there is a direct connection with the Baltic states from this perspective. So my good judgment in this situation is to raise the threshold of a potential conflict in our part of Europe.

Photo: Karen Erickson

All current members of NATO must agree to the requests of Sweden and Finland. Turkey’s opposition is a tangible obstacle along the way.

Hekki Emre Yunt, the Turkish ambassador to Stockholm, told DN that Sweden is a bigger problem than Finland.

– I’m just saying that this is an issue that must be resolved in dialogue and this is what we are working on, comments Peter Holtqvist.

Turkey sets three requirements for approval of membership of Sweden and Finland in NATO. One is that the Nordic countries will rescind the arms embargo imposed in 2019 due to Turkish actions in Syria.

“I don’t intend to go into any detail, it may find its way now and then we may come back when we have a result,” says Peter Holtqvist.

What is the probability that you will solve it?

– I suppose we do that.

What role does the United States play in trying to reach Turkey?

– I can’t go into that kind of question. Now we will solve this through dialogue and there may be many who are involved in this work. We’ll be back when we’re done.

What is the most important idea you carry with you these days in the United States?

– I think it is good to receive such a clear message about the massive support for Sweden and Finland from Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate. I think the very clear indication from Lloyd Austin if you are prepared to be a proper backup now during this important time is also very important. A positive reception in general.

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