17:26 GMT +320 July 2019
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    US soldier stands next to a Patriot surface-to-air missile battery at an army base in Morag, Poland

    Pentagon's Latest Bid to Drag Sweden Into NATO Involves Patriot Missiles?

    © AP Photo / Czarek Sokolowski
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    Lt. Gen. Frederick "Ben" Hodges, the commander of the US army in Europe, suggested deploying the Patriot surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems to Sweden as part of war games, which, according to Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist, are not in the pipeline yet, Finland's Yle national public service reported.

    "I really would like to try to practice moving the Patriot air defense system to Sweden and back across the sea to show strength," Hodges told Sweden's TV4 television network.

    Hultqvist, who is on a visit to Finland, confirmed that Sweden does take part in military exercises with other countries, including the US, but did not provide additional comments on Hodges' remarks. For its part, Finland has not received a similar offer, the country's defense chief Jussi Niinistö said.

    Regardless of whether the Patriot air defense complex will be deployed to Sweden or not, the reasoning behind the initiative is clear. Hodges and other NATO defense officials have long used the non-existent threat from Russia as a pretext to conduct more war games, deploy more weapons and increase rotational presence of NATO forces close to Russia's borders.

    In 2013, Sweden's then Deputy Prime Minister Jan Björklund urged the government to purchase the US-made Patriots and deploy them to the island of Gotland. Not surprisingly, he named Russia as one of the reasons for Sweden to invest more in defense.

    US troops from the 5th Battalion of the 7th Air Defense Regiment emplace a launching station of the Patriot air and missile defence system at a test range in Sochaczew, Poland.file photo
    © AFP 2019 / JANEK SKARZYNSKI
    US troops from the 5th Battalion of the 7th Air Defense Regiment emplace a launching station of the Patriot air and missile defence system at a test range in Sochaczew, Poland.file photo

    Hodges has previously claimed that Russia poses a threat to Europe, although Moscow has repeatedly said that such allegations have no merit. In fact, NATO has been doing precisely what the alliance officials often accuse Moscow of – building up the bloc's military muscle.

    In addition, the North Atlantic Alliance has long tried to nudge Sweden into abandoning its neutrality and joining the bloc.

    In February, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov told RIA Novosti that NATO was trying to convince the Swedish leadership that Russia could carry out a nuclear strike against the Scandinavian country. Although these allegations are baseless, the fear mongering could tilt the Swedish public opinion in favor of joining the alliance.

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    Tags:
    air defense systems, military drills, Patriot missile system, NATO, Sweden, United States, Russia
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