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Sweden To Join NATO Response Force

Sweden is to join the NATO Response Force (NRF) and participate in Steadfast Jazz -- the western military alliance's largest exercise in the last seven years, it was announced Monday.

According to a NATO statement, the Swedish move comes after the North Atlantic Council approved the Swedish contribution on October 14.

"I welcome Sweden's participation, alongside that of Finland and Ukraine. Our relationship is already strong, and this will make it even stronger," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was quoted as saying.

Sweden has offered to send its staff officers to Steadfast Jazz 2013. With the approval by NATO Allies, the Nordic nation becomes the third partner country to join Steadfast Jazz, alongside Finland and Ukraine.

The Exercise Steadfast Jazz will be conducted in a number of locations across the Alliance in early November, with the largest elements being hosted in Latvia and Poland. It is the culmination of a series of demanding exercises designed to test and certify the NRF, NATO's rapid-reaction formation.

"The NATO Response Force is the spearhead of this Alliance: a rapid-reaction group able to defend any Ally, deploy anywhere, and deal with any threat. Exercise Steadfast Jazz will make sure that the spearhead is sharp, and ready to use," Rasmussen said.

The NRF comprise land, air, naval and special forces units committed by NATO nations for a twelve-month period. Partner countries can contribute to the NRF once their participation has been approved by the North Atlantic Council and the forces designated meet the required NATO standards. They reinforce the contribution of NATO Allies to the NRF, but do not replace them.

NATO's Connected Forces Initiative, launched by the Secretary General, foresees a reinforced program of exercises in the coming years - and reinforced cooperation with partners.

"Over the past 20 years, NATO and our partners have stood shoulder to shoulder in our operations. We have learned to work as a team. The Connected Forces Initiative will make sure that that team keeps on getting better," Rasmussen said.

Sweden has offered substantial forces to the next four rotations of the NRF, including aircraft, ships and land forces. Sweden is thus the fourth partner to join NRF, following Finland and Ukraine, who will make forces available for the NRF in 2014, as well as Georgia, who offered to contribute to the NRF in 2015.

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