Sweden Approves Defense Pact with US, Allowing Access to Military Bases

The opposition is concerned that the defense pact does not prohibit the deployment of American nuclear weapons

Swedish lawmakers have approved a defense pact with the United States that allows American troops to use 17 Swedish military bases and training sites. Some critics argue that the agreement does not explicitly prohibit the deployment of US nuclear weapons in Sweden.

The Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) was signed by Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in December 2022. However, it required parliamentary approval to come into effect. On Tuesday, Swedish MPs overwhelmingly approved the DCA, with 266 voting in favor, 37 against, and 46 absent. As a high-stakes vote, a three-quarters majority with more than half of lawmakers present was necessary for the bill to pass.

The Left and Green parties opposed the agreement, arguing that it should explicitly state that Sweden would not host nuclear weapons.

“We want to see legislation that bans nuclear weapons from being brought onto Swedish soil,” Green Party MP Emma Berginger said in parliament on Tuesday. She argued that the pact “doesn’t close the door to nuclear weapons.”

The Swedish Peace and Arbitration Association, a prominent anti-war non-profit, condemned the move, claiming that it increases tensions and security risks for Sweden and betrays voters’ expectations for a nuclear-free nation.

“Unlike in Norway and Denmark’s DCA pacts, the Swedish agreement contains no reservation against nuclear weapons,” the group’s head Kerstin Bergea wrote in an op-ed following the vote. Bergea pointed out that neighboring Finland, which joined NATO in 2022, has a national law prohibiting nuclear weapons on its territory, and their DCA pact with the US refers to it.

Sweden, a member of the US-led military bloc since March, will allow unrestricted passage of American troops, vehicles, and aircraft across the country. The Pentagon will also be allowed to establish its own facilities at existing Swedish military bases. US personnel will be governed by US rather than Swedish law.

Earlier this month, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov noted that the numerous waves of NATO expansion have made Europe less safe. He stressed that Moscow has no territorial disputes or points of tension with the US-led military bloc’s new members, Sweden and Finland. Peskov acknowledged that NATO military infrastructure will undoubtedly be hosted on their soil, stating that Stockholm and Helsinki “understand this would lead to consequences for their own security.”