The United States and Sweden on Tuesday (December 5th) concluded their first-ever defence cooperation agreement to strengthen their military ties and allow bilateral exercises to be held, at a time when Stockholm is waiting to be able to join NATO, Washington announced. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signed the agreement with his Swedish counterpart, Pal Jonson, the Pentagon said. The defense pact will establish "the conditions (for U.S. forces to) operate in Sweden," including "the legal status of U.S. military personnel, access to deployment areas" and "the prepositioning of military equipment," the Pentagon statement said.
The two officials "agreed on the importance of strong and continued support for Ukraine in the face of Russia's illegal and full-scale invasion," the same source added. Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, which began in February 2022, has raised concerns among Finland and Sweden, which have been historically neutral and have applied to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Helsinki was able to join the alliance in April, while Stockholm is awaiting ratification of its membership by two of its members, Turkey and Hungary. The new U.S.-Swedish defense pact will be in effect both before and after Sweden joins NATO, the State Department said, adding that Sweden "is a strong and capable defense partner that champions NATO values."