Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist announced on Friday that Sweden is extending its military presence at its borders and increasing the number of exercises it is undertaking with NATO due to concerns over a Russian military resurgence.
Sweden’s decision to boost military precautions came after a report from senior vice-president of the US-based Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) and former correspondent for the Economist newspaper Edward Lucas was published in June.
According to Lucas’ report, also known as The Coming Storm, Russia “rehearsed the invasion and occupation of the Baltic region with 33,000 soldiers from March 21 to March 25.”
Lucas claimed that Russia rehearsed the invasion of not only Sweden’s east coast island of Gotland, but also Danish island Bornholm and Finland’s Swedish speaking Aland island as well as northern Norway.
— CEPA (@cepa) 23 Haziran 2015
Concerning The Coming Storm report, Defence Minister Hultqvist told Norwegian newspaper Dagens Nyheter that "it's a general fact that Russia is carrying out bigger, more complex, and in some cases more provocative and defiant, exercises. We are following that development and are now strengthening our military capability and our international cooperation."
"We need to keep up with the new reality. It is broadly anchored in parliament that it is important for the United States to be militarily represented in Europe and this is part of the balance,” he added.
“I think that there is a new security situation in the Baltic area and in the Baltic Sea.”
Sweden to increase defence budget
The Swedish defence ministry submitted a proposal to the parliament on June 16 to raise the country’s defence budget in order to prepare Sweden for war.
Sweden’s defence budget of the country has been decreased after the Cold War period, and money has been spent on international peacekeeping tasks rather than border protection.
Moreover, although Sweden is not a NATO member country it will increase its participation in joint military exercises with NATO. Sweden recently took part recent NATO exercises in the Baltic Sea. upcoming joint exercises set to take place in September in Spain and in 2018 in Norway.
Sweden’s moves have come in reaction to the growing Russian military presence in the Baltic region, including airspace and coastal waters.
The Coming Storm report
Lucas stressed that The Coming Storm report was written to open up a discussion over security issues and push for an increase security measures and military spending in Nordic Countries.
“The central message of this report is that if the region’s security is not improved, Nato, the world’s most successful military alliance, could be revealed as powerless, perhaps without even a shot being fired," Lucas said.
— CEPA (@cepa) 26 Haziran 2015
“It is possible, though unlikely, that Russia is indeed planning a surprise full-scale military attack on the Baltic states, their Nordic neighbors and Poland. It would also be possible to invade one of the Baltic states and reach the coast within a matter of a few hours.”
“Russia mounted a dummy attack, using planes armed with live missiles, on the Danish island of Bornholm just as 90,000 guests—in effect the country’s entire political elite—were visiting the island for the Folkemødet public policy festival. Had the attack actually taken place, Denmark would have been decapitated,” the report said about Denmark.
Russia has threatened to aim nuclear missiles at Danish warships if Denmark joins NATO's missile defense system, in comments Copenhagen called unacceptable and NATO said would not contribute to peace.
The Russian ambassador to Denmark Mikhail Vanin wrote an article on Russia-Denmark relations saying “I don’t think the Danes fully understand the consequences of what will happen if Denmark joins the American-controlled missile defence. If it happens, Danish war ships will become targets for Russian atomic missiles.”
Another Baltic country targeted by the Russian invasion rehearsal was Norway.
Norwegian Defence Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide did not make comments about the details in the report, but said that “we are active, have a good understanding of the situation in our region, and are following developments closely.”
“As I have pointed out repeatedly, we are seeing increased complexity in Russian exercises in our region,” she added.
CEPA is a non-profit US think-tank which focuses particularly on studies concerning Central and Eastern Europe. The organisation says its main aim is to promote a strategically and economically secure and politically free Central and Eastern Europe with strong EU ties.