16:28 GMT +322 September 2019
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    Sweden's HMS Stockholm, left, HMS Malmo and HMS Trosso, right, are seen during an exercise outside Karlskrona naval base, Sweden, March 21, 2009

    Chain Reaction: Trump's Triumph Galvanizes Swedish Defense Into Action

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    Donald Trump Elected 45th US President (281)
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    With fears of an abrupt end to the US' infatuation with Scandinavia as Barack Obama prepares to leave office, Donald Trump's victory has plunged Sweden into horror, reviving its traditional Russophobia and leading to calls for increased defense expenditure.

    Trump's sweeping election victory has led to mournful reactions across the whole Baltic region, renewing security fears amid good old anti-Russian paranoia. During his election campaign, Trump voiced his admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, hinting that an acknowledgement of Crimea's re-unification with Russia was not impossible. The very idea of establishing a dialogue with Moscow, which Trump repeatedly expressed, made the Baltic states, Poland and the Nordic countries, whose politicians have expressed a strong anti-Russian sentiment, tremble.

    Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter columnist and defense expert Mikael Holmström wrote that Donald Trump's victory was a "slap in the face" and "bad news" for Sweden's security.

    In recent years, Sweden's military cooperation with the US rose to an unprecedented level, as US outgoing President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden visited Stockholm, pledging US security guarantees. Whereas Sweden formally remains non-aligned, its ties to NATO have been tightened, as a result of which many view Washington as the only possible redeemer in case of a highly unlikely Russian "sneak attack."

    Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan went so far as to predict World War III as a consequence of Trump's "isolationist" policy. Columnist Olle Lönnaeus cited the next-to-impossible option of Trump and Putin actually dividing Europe into "spheres of influence" similar to the 1945 Yalta agreement (with the Nordics and the Baltics obviously falling under Russia's heel).

    Trump notoriously called NATO, Washington's foremost foreign policy instrument in Europe "obsolete" and "outdated." Additionally, he questioned the mutual defense clause, the very foundation of NATO, and called on member states to increase their defense expenditure to make good NATO's common guidelines, rather that implicitly relying on Washington for protection. According to Sydsvenskan, Sweden is now the Baltic Sea state that spends least on its own defense (1.1 percent of GDP). As Sweden is not bound by NATO guidelines, Stockholm should no longer hope for the same benevolent treatment from the US, Lönnaeus pointed out.

    "There is no doubt that Sweden must also increase its defense expenditure to be on par with its Nordic peers. I believe 1.5 percent is something we have to step up to," Christian Democrat Mikael Oscarsson told Swedish Radio.

    According to Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist, there is no need for changes in the defense budget. Instead, the current guidelines aimed at improving air defense, paving the way for next generation fighter jets, updating the submarine fleet, introducing new mortars and establishing a military presence on the island of Gotland should be implemented in full, Swedish Radio reported.

    Despite its non-aligned stance, Sweden has gradually increased its dependence on US and NATO since World War II. Throughout the Cold War, Sweden gathered intelligence data on the Soviet Union and kept runways prepared for US warplanes. Since 1990s, Sweden has stepped up its engagement in NATO exercises. Swedish troops were deployed under NATO command in Afghanistan, whereas Swedish warplanes participated in the NATO offensive in Libya. In Summer, the Swedish government signed a host country agreement with NATO, which explicitly opens for foreign troops on Swedish soil.

    Today, there are 65,000 US soldiers stationed at military bases in Europe. Earlier this year, the Pentagon officials announced plans to deploy 4,000 troops, 250 tanks and Bradley armored vehicles, self-propelled howitzers and 1,700 pieces of other wheeled vehicles and trucks in Eastern Europe to stop possible Russian aggression.

    Topic:
    Donald Trump Elected 45th US President (281)

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    Tags:
    NATO, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Scandinavia, Baltic Sea, Sweden, United States, Russia
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