Sweden rules out sending troops to Ukraine after NATO membership agreed

    WORLD  27 February 2024 - 20:52

    Sweden’s prime minister has ruled out sending troops to Ukraine for now – saying the subject is “not relevant at all” – putting down a clear marker between himself and Emmanuel Macron as he prepares for his historically neutral country to imminently join NATO.

    Ulf Kristersson, who on February 26 hailed a “historic day” as Sweden’s NATO membership was finally approved by Hungary, clearing the Nordic country’s path to join the western military alliance, said that while he respected “France’s will to help Ukraine”, Sweden would be following its own path, according to The Guardian.

    Macron can discuss whether France will send troops to Ukraine, but not NATO, he said. “If a country sends troops somewhere else in the world it doesn’t affect NATO.”

    His comments, on February 27 morning, came after the French president initiated the first open discussion of nations collectively considering sending troops to Ukraine.

    Macron said on February 26: “There is no consensus to officially back any ground troops. That said, nothing should be excluded. We will do everything that we can to make sure that Russia does not prevail.”

    Macron told a meeting of 20 mainly European leaders in Paris that past shibboleths such as sending long-range missiles and planes had been cast aside, adding that “people used to say give them just sleeping bags and helmets”.

    He said: “We must do whatever we can to obtain our objective.”

    Asked about the possibility of Sweden sending troops to Ukraine, Kristersson dismissed the idea, saying the question was not under consideration.

    “Right now we are fully occupied with sending advanced materials to from Sweden to Ukraine in many different ways, like many other countries are. So that is a whole other thing,” he told the Swedish broadcaster SVT.

    “There are not any requests from Ukraine’s side either for that. That question is not relevant.”

    NATO’s chief, Jens Stoltenberg, meanwhile, told the Associated Press that the alliance has “no plans for NATO combat troops on the ground in Ukraine”.

    The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has also ruled out such suggestions.

    Sweden’s approach to foreign intervention is different to that of France, he said. “You could say that different countries have different traditions of engaging themselves in other countries. And France’s tradition is not the Swedish tradition. So I have respect for France’s will to help Ukraine. We are now helping Ukraine in a different way with a lot of advanced material.”

    However, asked whether he could exclude Sweden from sending troops if the request came, he was not able to provide an outright rejection, conceding: “We live in very special times now, so a general exclusion of things …”

    He added: “It is not relevant at all right now. There is no discussion like that ongoing in Sweden. We are participating by sending resources, materials and money to Ukraine and that is appreciated very much.”

    Sweden is expected to become Sweden’s 32nd member within days – possibly by the end of the week – after Hungary on Monday became the last member of the alliance to give its parliamentary approval after a meeting last week between Kristersson and the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán.

    On February 26 night, Kristersson described the move as a homecoming for the country, which ditched two centuries of neutrality and military non-alignment when it applied to join the military alliance in 2022 after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

    “Sweden now leaves 200 years of neutrality and alliance-independence behind us. It’s a big step, which we will take seriously, but also a very natural step … NATO membership means that we are coming home to a large number of democracies working together for peace and freedom and a very successful cooperation.”

    Stoltenberg, the outgoing NATO secretary general, said Sweden’s membership would “make us all stronger and safer”.

    In the meeting called by Macron, attended by international politicians including Scholz, the UK foreign secretary, David Cameron, the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, and the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, the president issued a stark warning.

    “There is a change in Russia’s stance. It is striving to take on further territory and it has its eyes not just on Ukraine but on many other countries as well, so Russia is presenting a greater danger.”

    French officials have become worried there has been no single galvanising western force responding to Vladimir Putin putting his economy on such an effective war footing, and insufficiently clear practical responses had emerged from the west.

    He said the meeting, called in haste by Macron in the wake of the Ukrainian frontline starting to crumble, had agreed to focus on five key action areas: cyber-defence, joint production of military weapons and ammunition in Ukraine, defence of countries directly threatened by Russian offensives such as Moldova, greater military protection for Ukraine on its border with Russian-backed Belarus, and the de-mining of Ukraine. He also announced a new coalition to provide long- and medium-range strike missile capability.

    Insisting Russia’s defeat was absolutely essential for peace and security in Europe, Macron said it was necessary for Europe to move from words into action so clear decisions were made to build a European defence pillar independent of America.

    Asked about the possibility of continuing to support Ukraine in the context of the US presidential elections this November, he said: “We cannot wait for the outcome of the American elections to decide what our future is going to be. It is the future of Europe that is at stake so therefore it is up to the Europeans to decide. If others want to join in and help, fantastic, but that is just an added bonus.”

    Caliber.Az

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