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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Joint Press Conference With Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson in Stockholm, Sweden

SWEDISH DEFENSE MINISTER PAL JONSON: And once again, Secretary Austin, warmly welcome to Sweden, to Stockholm and to the naval base of Musko, and thank you for you and visiting -- for your delegation to visit us here in Sweden.

During the meeting today, we've been discussing such things as Sweden's accession into NATO. We've been discussing the situation in Ukraine. We've been discussing the connection between the security situation in the Europe and Atlantic area and, also the Indo-Pacific. In addition, we've also been discussing, of course, bilateral defense cooperation.

We are very grateful for the continued support from the United States for -- for Sweden's application to NATO and the clear message from you on the importance of a quick ratification for Sweden's bid to join the alliance and become a full-fledged member of NATO. Your visit to Stockholm today, together with the United States' very frequent military presence through training, exercises, and other activities in Sweden and in our neighborhood is also very much appreciated. As we speak, there is a battalion from the U.S. Marine Corps, together with other important U.S. military assets and capabilities who are also participating now in the exercise Aurora 23.

I would also like to thank you, Secretary Austin, for the United States' leadership for NATO and European security at a critical time for our security due to Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine. I think that a strong transatlantic link is indispensable for Europe's security, and also for handling challenges such as China and Russia.

But thank you also for your support and your personal leadership in supporting Ukraine and the Ukraine Defense Contact Group that's been indispensable, and we're also going to be meeting at the Ramstein forum at -- later on this week. I always say that supporting Ukraine is the right thing to do, but it's also the smart thing to do when it comes to the military support that we provide for Ukraine. It is needed so that Ukraine can -- Ukraine can reclaim lost territory and regain its freedom. And by supporting Ukraine, we're also investing into our own security as Ukraine is, of course, fighting for its freedom, but it's also fighting for a safer and more secure Europe.

It's a top priority for the Swedish government to continue support for Ukraine being that politically, being to monetarily, being it economically and military for as long as needed. Sweden has so far provided 1.9 billion euros in support for Ukraine, out of which 1.5 billion euros is military support.

The fundamentally-altered security environment in Europe and the federation of the security environment in Europe, our assessment is that it's long term and it's something we have to take into consideration. We also, of course, stepping up support for Ukraine, and therefore, we have to also invest into the deterrence and defense demands that are stepping up. And, of course, Sweden is also stepping up with defense investments, and our aim is to reach two percent of GDP by the latest, by 2026.

The United States is a much-appreciated partner to Sweden and a key partner when it comes to security and defense matters. I'm also grateful that we are on the same page on the many possibilities to enhance and further develop our already-strong relationship when it comes to defense. Also, for example, now, we have started negotiations also on a bilateral defense cooperation agreement.

Again, thank you, Secretary, for being here today and for assuring us of your continued support both for Sweden's security and for our -- our membership application to NATO. I look forward to continuing developing Sweden's relationship with the United States in the years to come, and hopefully soon, also as allies with inside NATO. Thank you very much.


SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Well, Mr. Minister, thanks for hosting me today, and -- and thanks for the warm welcome, and a special thanks for this great weather.


It's great to be here in Stockholm and to be among friends in a proud fellow democracy.

Now, we're meeting in a crucial moment for European security. It has been more than a year now since Russia launched its cruel and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, which has dragged Europe into its worst security crisis since the end of World War II. And as Minister Jonson just said, the United States, our allies and our partners are deeply-committed to supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes. And Sweden has shown tremendous leadership in rushing -- rushing security assistance to Ukraine, so thank you for your invaluable contributions to Ukraine's fight to live in freedom.

Now, the ties between Sweden and the United States -- run strong and they run deep, and the partnership between our two democracies continues to flourish.

Now, during the turbulence of the past year, Sweden has taken two major steps to strengthen our relationship even further. First, you have made the bold and historic decision to apply for NATO membership. And you have the full and firm support of the United States. We recently welcomed Finland as the 31st member of NATO. And we look forward to soon welcoming Sweden as the 32nd. And to be clear, we look forward to that to happen before the summit in July.

So, we encourage our allies, Türkiye and Hungary, to ratify Sweden's accession as soon as possible. And we fully anticipate that Sweden will be a member of NATO by the time of the Vilnius Summit in July. And to underscore our deep support, the department has increased the number of ship visits and bomber task force missions and high-level engagements with Sweden.

But we're doing all of this for a simple but important reason. Sweden's membership in NATO is going to mean a stronger alliance and a more secure Europe. As I've seen firsthand on this trip, the Swedish Armed Forces are an exceptionally capable and highly professional fighting force. And Sweden's troops and capabilities will enhance NATO's operations to deter conflict, including in the Baltic Sea region.

And that brings me to my second point, the second important step forward that Sweden has taken. We're looking forward to completing the negotiation of our U.S.-Swedish Defense Cooperation Agreement. And once that agreement is finalized, it will allow for closer and deeper defense cooperation between our democracies.

Mr. Minister, Sweden is already one of our strongest and most capable partners. And I look forward to very soon calling Sweden an ally. 

So it's great to be here with you. And thanks for being a great host. And with that, I guess we'll take some questions.

MIN. JONSON: I guess we do.


Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. And I think we stand ready to take any questions. And I think (inaudible) has the microphone.

STAFF: All right. We will take some questions from the floor, and I will call out the name and publication, and then my colleague will arrive with a microphone. Please speak clearly into the microphone.

First question is for (inaudible). Please raise your hand so we can find you. There you are.

Q: Thank you very much for asking (sic) questions.

Secretary Austin, our government here in Sweden has reassured the population that, during the period until we become a full member of NATO, your administration has given us what they call "security guarantees." Can you please reaffirm these guarantees from -- from the U.S.?

And can you please describe how extensive they are? Does it mean that American troops would come to Sweden whether Sweden -- if Sweden would be attacked?

And a follow-up question on that is, for how long will these guarantees maintain, now that Türkiye and Hungary has decided not to let us join NATO yet? Thank you very much.

SEC. AUSTIN: Well, I don't want to speculate on any hypotheticals, but I -- what I would tell you is that Sweden is an important partner to us. And you've seen evidence of that over the years, the many years that we've joined you in exercising with you. Our troops have -- have worked together to increase interoperability and -- and modernize our forces. And I want to applaud what you've done to date in your -- in your efforts to continue to modernize. I think it's very, very impressive.

Sweden, as you just heard me say a couple of minutes ago, adds significant value to -- to NATO, and we look forward to Sweden joining NATO. So what you've seen over the last several years, and most importantly over the last year, is an increased number of port visits by our -- our Navy, and our ships working together. You've seen a number of our aircraft work alongside your aircraft. You've seen visits by -- by our senior leadership. And -- and we'll continue to -- to do those kinds of things, going forward.

So Sweden will remain a partner for us forever. And -- and so, again, I don't want to forecast any -- any timeline in terms of troop deployments or engagements or that sort of business, but I will just tell you that we will continue to do what you've seen us do here over the last several years and especially the last several months.

MODERATOR: Thank you so much. The next question is from Lita Baldor, AP.

Q: Thank you. Mr. Minister, Secretary Austin has talked about the goal being for Sweden to join NATO by the NATO Summit this July. How confident are you that that can happen? 

And in the meantime, do you think these are dangerous times for Sweden? Are you worried about any vulnerabilities for attack by Russia?

And, Mr. Secretary, do you believe that the F-16 deal that the U.S. just reached with Türkiye earlier this week is a final linchpin for getting Turkey to approve Sweden's admission into NATO, or do you think there is more the U.S. is going to have to do to make that happen?

Thank you.

MIN. JONSON: If I may, let me say I feel, and I think Sweden feels more secure now after we became invitee to NATO. We're militarily more integrated now than before we had the invitee status. We have received reassurances from the United States and other important partners about our security. We see a much more active exercise pattern from the United States and other countries in our vicinity, and that builds security.

And I take Secretary Austin's, your visit here, is a commitment to the United States engagement into Sweden's security, as is -- so in this regard as well as our bid to join the alliance.

Now, let me say I'm hopeful that we will be able to join NATO by the Vilnius Summit. I think the Vilnius Summit is going to be a very important moment for the alliance as it's stepping up its activities when it comes to deterrence and defense, with everything from regional plans, force capabilities and new command-and-control structures. And of course, we want to be there at the table in order also to have -- to have -- being able to be a security provider into the alliance. And we think that we can provide the alliance with strategic depth and make it also better and more effective ways also, in order to show deterrence and defense, at least when it comes to the Baltic states and Finland.

SEC. AUSTIN: Well, thanks, Lita.

Türkiye is an important NATO ally. So it's important that they have a capable and up-to-date capability. And so, in terms of when they're going to make decisions, I won't -- I won't second-guess their leadership, or predict when their leadership's going to make decisions. I would just say that it's important to all of us that they make the decision sooner versus later. Because we all look forward to having a very capable Sweden sitting at the -- at the desk beside us in Vilnius this summer.

STAFF: All right, next question, (inaudible) News Agency.

Q: Thank you. Question for Secretary Mr. Austin: You say that you want to welcome Sweden as a NATO member before the summer. What can the U.S. do to make sure that the remaining states ratify Sweden that soon?

SEC. AUSTIN: Well, we'll do what -- what we've done thus far and even more in -- in -- in engaging our -- our very important allies and -- and encourage -- encouraging them to -- to come to that decision as quickly as possible. And I join the other 30 ministers of defense in the -- in the alliance that I know that they feel the same way. Again, I'm sure that these countries will -- will reach that decision, and -- and I -- I -- I feel confident that they'll reach it before July, so --

STAFF: All right, and then we move on to the next question: Helene Cooper, New York Times. Please raise your hand.

Q: Thank you. For Secretary Austin: I'd like to ask you about a question that's been hound -- we've been hounded by for the last two weeks, and that is why would the Pentagon allow a 21-year-old to have access to Americans' crucial and sensitive American national security documents, and also documents that are crucial to the national security of our allies? And I have a follow-up for the defense minister.

SEC. AUSTIN: Well, thanks, Helene. I would -- I would just tell you upfront -- and you've heard me say this a number of times -- that this -- this incident is under investigation. The DOJ is leading that investigation, and I think as that investigation unfolds, we're all going to learn a lot about -- about exactly what happened and how it happened.

For context, I would tell you that this young man is -- was a systems administrator, so he was a computer specialist that -- that worked in an intelligence unit, and so their business was intelligence and he -- you know, part of his responsibility was provide -- was, you know, maintaining the network that's -- that they operate on. So again, that's just some context, and I don't want -- I won't say any more. I'll just let the -- the investigation play out as it should, so --

Q: But the question of his age, I'm talking specifically about the fact that this is a 21-year-old. You think that's -- that's fine for -- for access to the high-level American intelligence?

SEC. AUSTIN: Well, I think you know, Lita (sic), that the vast majority of our -- our military is young. And -- and so it's -- it's not exceptional that -- that young people are doing important things in our military. That's -- that's really not the issue; the issue is -- and -- and by the way, he had a top-secret clearance. The issue is, you know, how you responsibly execute or carry out your duties and how you protect the information. You know, all of us have a -- have a requirement to do that, and supervisors have a requirement to make sure that that's being done, so --

Q: Thank you.

For the defense minister, did you discuss the leaks case with Secretary Austin? And do you have any concern that the reaction by the United States to this case could stymie or hurt the ability of Sweden to access its intelligence that it needs in the future? Thank you.

MIN. JONSON: The -- this issue was not part of the agenda today in today's deliberations on our bilateral cooperation. I can just say that we have a good intelligence cooperation between Sweden and the United States as we have a strong defense and security cooperation and we rest assure of U.S. commitments of -- of -- of taking this seriously, and we've been reassured on that on a bilateral basis, and we feel sure -- sure of the U.S. commitment of -- of handling the situation, as is -- as it has occurred.