US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reportedly warned Sweden of severe consequences if the country followed through on signing a UN treaty banning nuclear weapons.
The Scandinavian country is one of 122 states backing the treaty, and Stockholm also recently signed a statement of intent to increase military cooperation with the US.
But a letter from Mattis reportedly warned Sweden’s defense minister, Peter Hultqvist, that signing on to the treaty could affect US-Sweden military cooperation as well as US military support in the event of war.
Mattis’ letter also suggested signing the treaty could have an impact on the country’s ties to NATO, of which it is a Gold Card program member, meaning it has some privileges within the defense alliance even though it is not a full member.
Sweden’s Gold Card program status faces renewal in October, and Mattis warned his Swedish counterpart that signing the treaty would foreclose the option of joining NATO, according to Defense News.
Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheterin also cited a source as being concerned the threat could apply to US-Sweden defense-industry cooperation, including deals of which Saab is a part. (The Swedish government recently completed a cross-party deal to boost domestic defense spending.)
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström has said the country intends to sign on to the treaty, though Hultqvist is reportedly against doing so.
The US, which adheres to a policy of nuclear deterrence, has criticized the nuclear-weapons ban, but Mattis’ letter is seen as an unusual step in bilateral relations, particularly between the US and Sweden.
A Pentagon spokesman told Defense News that while the US “values its defense relationship with Sweden,” it has discouraged countries from signing on to the ban, which has measures that “could potentially affect our ability to cooperate with parties to the treaty on issues of mutual interest.”
SOURCE: Christopher Woody