Sweden on Friday deployed armored vehicles and dozens of armed military personnel to the streets of Visby, a port city on the Baltic Sea island of Gotland, in an unusual move taken in response to increased “Russian activity” in the region. , the army said.
The move came after three Russian landing ships sailed into the Baltic Sea crossing the Great Belt strait in Denmark this week, amid heightened tensions between Russia and NATO member states.
“The armed forces are taking the necessary measures to safeguard Sweden’s integrity and demonstrate our ability to protect Sweden and Swedish interests,” Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist told AFP in an email.
“Russian activities” in the Baltic Sea
In a statement late Thursday, the military said troops would be deployed to “reinforce operations in many locations” due to “increased Russian activity in the Baltic Sea”.
Swedish armed forces chief of operations Michael Claesson told AFP that the units deployed to Visby came from a garrison already stationed on the island, denying that it was a “show of force”.
Western countries accuse Russia of having massed tanks and tens of thousands of soldiers on the border with Ukraine in recent weeks, a prelude according to NATO to a possible invasion.
Russia denies preparing a military offensive and claims that it is a response to the growing presence of the Atlantic Alliance in its sphere of influence.
The reinforced Swedish army
Neighbors of Russia, Norway, Denmark and Iceland — all three members of NATO — and Sweden and Finland — partners of the Atlantic Alliance without being members of it — cooperate closely in terms of regional security.
After the end of the Cold War, Stockholm decreased its military spending. But after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, Sweden strengthened its defense capabilities.
Sweden, which has not fought a war for two centuries, reinstated compulsory military service in 2017 and reopened its garrison on the island of Gotland in January 2018.
afp / nr