Worried by Russia, Sweden beefs up troops on Baltic island of Gotland

STOCKHOLM (BLOOMBERG) – Sweden’s armed forces are boosting preparedness in regions including the Baltic island of Gotland, citing Russia’s increased military activity in the area.

Military resources will be “reallocated to strengthen operations in several different places” in Sweden, with a “visible” change on Gotland, Michael Claesson, chief of operations at the Swedish military, said in a statement late on Thursday.

Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet on Friday (Jan 14) published video of armoured combat vehicles patrolling the harbour of Visby, the largest town on the island.

The largest Nordic nation that’s not a member of Nato was rattled by Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the war in eastern Ukraine, deciding to bring back military conscription from 2018 and to build up its military capability that had been in decline since the end of the Cold War.

Gotland is located about 300km north-west of the heavily militarised Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

“The security situation in our immediate area has been serious for a long time and the recent development of events has further strengthened that picture,” Claesson said.

While the move by the Russian navy “doesn’t have to mean an increased threat, we always adapt to the prevailing situation,” he added.

Earlier in the week, Swedish fighter jets followed landing crafts of Russia’s northern fleet that made their way into the Baltic Sea through the Danish Great Belt strait.

The move comes as Russia remains on a collision course with the US and its European allies over a mass buildup of Russian troops near the border with Ukraine.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Commander of Sweden’s Armed Forces, Micael Byden, warned that it would be impossible for the Swedish military to fulfil its function if Russia should force the west to agree to its demands.

“Russia is ready to use military power to reach its political aims,” Byden said on Tuesday at an annual defence conference .

“You shouldn’t exclude any scenario, regardless of how high the risk is.”