Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has told his Swedish counterpart he hopes that Sweden will get NATO membership before the summer.
On the first day of a four-day trip to Sweden and Germany, Austin met with Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson for a Tuesday morning defense meeting at the headquarters of the Swedish navy on Musko Naval Base near Stockholm.
"Mr. Minister, thanks for the tremendous hospitality. We're delighted to be here, and I really appreciate the warm welcome from your troops this morning," Austin told his counterpart. "We look forward to continuing to advocate for your swift admission to NATO, and we'll work hard to get that done before the summer. I think that's really, really important."
Austin told Jonson that the admission of Sweden to NATO — something that happened earlier this month for neighboring Finland — will greatly enhance the NATO alliance.
"You will ... add a lot of value to NATO, our overall effort," Austin said. "You have ... a highly professional military, and you have invested a lot in modernization over the last several years. As you know, our forces have done a lot together and, thereby, increased interoperability here over the last several years. We have one of the largest exercises in recent history ongoing as we speak, and I look forward to some good results coming out of that."
Right now, Sweden, the U.S., and other European nations are participating in the Swedish military Exercise Aurora 23, which runs to May 11. It is the largest Swedish military exercise in decades and readies participants for responding to an attack on Sweden.
The U.S, Sweden and multiple other European nations are also spinning up for Exercise Defender 23, which will demonstrate some of the interoperability Austin referenced.
"You're a great partner," Austin told Jonson. "We look forward to, very soon, being able to call you an ally."
During his four-day trip in Europe, Austin is expected to meet with the Swedish prime minister in Stockholm and to also travel south to Germany to host the 11th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.
As in past meetings of the UDCG, discussions are likely to revolve around providing continued support to Ukraine, both now and for the future, while at the same time ensuring the nations involved can maintain their own defense.