Nordic Neurosis : Sweden Scared Russia is Eager to Get Gotland

The ‘audacious' emergence of ‘aggressive' Russian forces in the Baltic has prompted so-far-still-neutral Sweden to flex its muscles. In addition to engaging in large-scale NATO exercises, Stockholm has recently been pumping up its military budget. Furthermore, a relative majority of Swedes are now in favor of joining NATO.

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Despite the confrontational rhetoric, Sweden's defense outlay has been shrinking steadily since the mid-1960s, reaching a record low of 1.2 percent of the country's GDP at the beginning of the 2010s. In 2014, however, a significant military budget increase was bulldozed by Sweden's saber-rattlers on account of Russia's "aggression."

Last year, Sweden allotted no less than one billion kronor (120 million dollars) to rebuilding some of the decrepit Cold War defenses of the strategically-located Baltic Sea island of Gotland. Sweden's grandiose war plans include posting hundreds of soldiers on the island by 2018 and setting up a new garrison as an ominous return to the Cold War era.

However, despite the generous military outlay and the overall bellicose air, Sweden does not stand any real chance of defending its precious Gotland, should the island be invaded by foreign forces, experts claim.

​"To begin with, it is virtually impossible to defend the whole of Gotland even one bit. At best, we are talking about a single place, like Visby airport or the harbor at Slite," Karlis Neretnieks, formerly head of the island's now-scrapped regiment and principal of the National Defense University, told Swedish Radio.

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According to Neretnieks, since neither artillery nor air force units are being moved to Gotland, reinforcements would have to be deployed from the mainland in the event of an attack.

About a year ago, Russia was unfoundedly reported to be drilling the hypothetical scenario of attacking Gotland, as well as Denmark's island of Bornholm and Finland's autonomous Åland archipelago, all traditional focal points in the Baltic. This terror campaign by the Scandinavian media hardly calmed the anxious Swedish public, which is continually being terrorized with talk of the imaginary threat of a Russian invasion.

The painful issue of Gotland's protection and Sweden's inadequate defense capacity is one of the crucial arguments for Sweden's proposed NATO membership, which a majority of Swedes are reported to prefer. Sweden's hawks and mainstream media seem to pull out all stops in issuing pro-NATO membership propaganda, if they are forced to resort to such ridiculous reasons.

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What the scare-mongers never have managed to clarify is what good can ever come of this absurd invasion for Russia, as well as how Sweden would benefit from a possible NATO membership, as the neutral Nordic nation already supports the alliance in every way imaginable. Some experts claim that Sweden would actually be running a higher risk of becoming a target as a NATO member state.

"Sweden's non-alignment is something that both NATO and Russia can benefit from through our contribution to the easing of tensions in the area. Sweden's participation may also spare international cooperation from becoming a standoff between two highly suspicious parties," Adam Löberg, chairman of the Swedish Social Democratic Youth League's subdivision in Södra Älvsborg wrote in a debate article for the news outlet Nyheterna24.

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Gotland is a picturesque Baltic island some 100 kilometers off the coast of mainland Sweden, home to some 50,000 people and a popular vacation destination among Swedes.

According to recent polls, NATO supporters outnumber their opponents for the first time in Sweden's history (38 percent versus 31). However, 60 percent of Swedes still would gladly stay out of military unions.

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