Some 33,000 Russian soldiers rehearsed a military takeover of the Baltic Sea area back in March and now Sweden, a non-NATO country, will be increasing its exercises with the Alliance.
The Russians practiced the seizure of Gotland off Sweden’s east coast, Danish island Bornholm, Finland’s Swedish-speaking Åland islands and northern Norway, security expert Edward Lucas writes in a new US Security Report titled, the “Coming Storm.”
“If carried out successfully, control of those territories would make it all but impossible for NATO allies to reinforce the Baltic States,” the report claims.
According to the Local, “Swedish-Russian relations have been under strain in the past year, following increased military presence in the Baltic Sea.”
The Swedish Armed Forces did not want to comment when approached by Sweden’s largest news agency about the possible shift in military strategy.
“I think that there is a new security situation in the Baltic area and in the Baltic Sea,” Sweden’s Defense Minister told The Local on the day the Russian sighting was confirmed.
He also announced that the Swedish navy is upgrading its fleet of ships to improve its ability to locate rogue submarines in Swedish waters. Sweden also plans to move 230 soldiers to Gotland, to strengthen the island’s strategic defense, according to the Defense Minister.
Security political analysts believe Lucas is trying to show that the Baltic Sea area is very important and that what happens here matters to the rest of Europe. One military expert in the region says, “A takeover of these islands would mean that NATO would not be able to send ships into the Baltic Sea and would make NATO irrelevant there. It’s such a strategic spot.”
According to an article published on Yahoo News, “Swedish public opinion has long been opposed to NATO membership, though recent polls have shown an increase in support.”
Lucas’ report comes just a week after Russia’s ambassador to Sweden warned that Sweden would likely face military action if it were to join NATO.
Swedish troops will reportedly take part in a large NATO exercise in Spain in September.