WASHINGTON (AP) — President Biden plans to welcome Sweden’s prime minister to the White House on Wednesday in a show of solidarity as the United States pushes for the Nordic nation’s entry into NATO, a week before the summit of the alliance.
Biden and Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson will “review our growing security cooperation and reaffirm our view that Sweden should join NATO as soon as possible,” the White House said in a statement announcing the meeting. The leaders will also discuss the war in Ukraine and issues involving China.
Sweden and its neighbor Finland ended their longstanding policy of military non-alignment after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Both applied for NATO membership, seeking a protection under the organization’s security umbrella.
Finland, which shares a border of more than 800 miles or 1,300 kilometers with Russia, joined NATO in April. But Sweden, which has avoided military alliances for more than 200 years, has seen its rise stunted by Turkey and Hungary; NATO needs the unanimous approval of all members to expand.
NATO had hoped Sweden’s road to membership would be smoothed before the alliance’s July 11-12 summit in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius. Sweden’s entry would be a symbolically powerful moment and the latest indication of how Russia’s war is pushing countries to join the alliance. Those hopes have faded.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has resisted, with his government accusing Sweden of being too soft on groups it believes pose a security threat, including Kurdish militant organizations and those associated with a coup attempt. State of 2016 in Turkey.
Last week he condemned Sweden for a protest burning the Koran. Swedish police allowed the protest outside a mosque in central Stockholm, citing freedom of speech after a court overturned a ban on burning a similar Quran.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he would bring together senior officials from Turkey, Sweden and Finland on Thursday to try to overcome Turkey’s objections.
Hungary has not yet ratified Sweden’s candidacy. Hungarian lawmakers said a long-delayed parliamentary vote on the matter would not take place until the fall legislative session.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government has alleged that Swedish politicians have told “blatant lies” about the state of Hungarian democracy. High-ranking Hungarian officials have said they support Sweden’s bid for membership while making vague demands in Stockholm as conditions for approval.
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