Top US diplomat to discuss Ukraine support, tech on Nordic trip

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Blinken visits Denver to participate in Cities Summit of the Americas

By Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Sweden, Norway and Finland next week to discuss with allies how to build Ukraine's defense and deterrence capabilities as Russia's war grinds on, officials said on Friday.

The talks would also cover deepening cooperation with Europe on trade and technology, the officials said.

At a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Oslo, Norway on Wednesday and Thursday, Washington hopes to shore up support for Ukraine ahead of a July summit in Lithuania, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Dereck Hogan told reporters while previewing the trip.

Asked whether Ukraine could be extended a formal invitation to join the alliance, Hogan repeated Washington's support for NATO's open-door policy but said decisions were made by all allies.

"The immediate needs in Ukraine are practical and so we should be focused on building Ukraine's defense and deterrence capabilities," Hogan added.

In Sweden on Monday through Wednesday, Blinken and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will lead the fourth meeting of the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council.

"We expect continued progress in several key areas including holding Russia accountable and supporting Ukraine via work on export controls and the misuse of technology, the clean tech transition, technology cooperation and trade and supply chains," Ruth Berry, senior advisor at the State Department's bureau of cyberspace and digital policy, told reporters.

Blinken would give a speech in Helsinki, Finland on Friday, the department said in a statement, "to highlight all the ways in which Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has been a strategic failure, and our continued efforts to support Ukraine’s defense of its territory, sovereignty, and democracy in pursuit of a just and durable peace."

Finland formally joined NATO in April in a historic policy shift away from its tradition of neutrality brought on by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Sweden's application has been held up by NATO members Turkey and Hungary.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Simon Lewis and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Alex Richardson)