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Sweden’s Top Commander Urges US to Beef Up Military ‘Footprint’ in Europe to Counter Russia

© Flickr / The US ArmyParatroopers of 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade depart Lielvarde Airbase (NATO), Latvia. File photo
Paratroopers of 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade depart Lielvarde Airbase (NATO), Latvia. File photo - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.12.2021
Claims by officials and media in the US and NATO that Russia has concentrated up to 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine and is preparing to invade have sunk relations between Moscow and the Western bloc to new lows. Russia adamantly denies having plans to invade anyone.
The United States should significantly beef up its presence in Europe if the conflict between Russia and Ukraine escalates, Swedish Armed Forces supreme commander Gen. Micael Byden has urged.
“If the situation – I wouldn’t say ‘require’ because that’s the wrong word – but if the situation would worsen, I do believe it would be good to have a bigger footprint,” Byden said, speaking to Politico on Thursday during a visit to Washington, where he met with senior US officials.
Byden suggested that the US troops should be sent to existing US facilities in Europe. “Because you have bases in Europe. It’s not like you’re not there. It’s more like…reinforce what you have…More people, more capabilities,” he urged.
The Swedish supreme commander didn’t specify how many more troops Washington should deploy. He stressed however that the US shouldn’t diminish the military resources devoted to Europe to concentrate on China. “I think you can do both,” he said.
Byden also expressed concern about the deepening of the military partnership between Moscow and Beijing. “We see more of it than before, and it’s a very good question how far they have come,” he said.
The United States has dozens of military bases dotting the European continent, with over 62,000 troops stationed in countries including Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Kosovo, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey and the UK. US-operated bases contain troops, armoured vehicles and tanks, aircraft, warships, and battlefield tactical nukes (the latter are stationed at bases in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey, respectively).
Sweden is not part of NATO and does not host US forces, but cooperates with the alliance extensively in drills and military planning within the Nordic NATO Enhanced Opportunity Partner programme, which also includes Finland.
Russian Defense Minister Gen. Sergei Shoigu prepares to take his seat for the two-day ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting and its Dialogue Partners Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 at Clark, Pampanga province, north of Manila, Philippine - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.07.2018
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‘Not One Inch East’?
Moscow has repeatedly expressed concerns about NATO’s continued eastward expansion and encroachment on Russia’s western borders, despite verbal assurances by Washington in 1990 that the bloc would not expand “one inch east” beyond a reunified Germany. Since then, NATO has broken these promises repeatedly, swallowing up every former member of the defunct Moscow-led Warsaw Pact alliance, the three Baltic republics of the former USSR, and four republics of the former Yugoslavia.
The post-coup government of Ukraine, which was installed with support of the US and the European Union in 2014, has expressed aspirations to join the bloc, with some officials threatening to reacquire nuclear weapons if Kiev’s membership bid is rejected. The alliance granted the country NATO Enhanced Opportunity Partner status in 2020, but has put off the country’s membership bid for up to two decades. Russia has warned that it considers Ukraine within NATO as a “red line” for Moscow’s security, given the prospect of the alliance stationing advanced missiles and aircraft right next to the border.
Troops load up nuclear warheads on Ukrainian territory. 1992. - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.04.2021
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Moscow has already expressed similar concerns about the Aegis Ashore missile defence facility deployed in Romania, and an identical system being built in Poland, pointing out that its anti-missile projectiles could easily be replaced with offensive and possibly nuclear-tipped Tomahawk cruise missiles.
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