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    Self-Inflicted Fears of Russian Aggression Scare Swedes From Nord Stream 2

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    With Moscow hardly being on Sweden's Christmas list, Stockholm continues to trump up fear of Russia. Sweden's recent report on Russia's military capability proceeds from the far-fetched assumption that Russia is poised to take initiative to use military force.

    According to the recent report by the Swedish Defense Research Agency (FOI), Russia's military potential has been greatly strengthened. The Russian Armed Forces have evolved from local structures tasked with handling internal conflicts in the former Soviet area to a formidable organization able of large-scale operations outside its "domain," Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter reported.

    Additionally, Russian policy was reported to be continuously marked by anti-Americanism, patriotism and authoritarianism. The report concluded that present-day Russia has more coercive military tools than before in its repertoire, and is able to trigger an "arms race in Sweden," Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan reported. Incidentally, many Swedish politicians have recently called for drastic military budget hikes by reason of Russia's "aggression."

    "We see an increasingly authoritarian Russia that prioritizes defense initiatives," Associate Professor Gudrun Persson, who led the two-year project, told Dagens Nyheter.

    Incidentally, the day before the report was published, Russian Ambassador Viktor Tatarintsev in an interview with Swedish national broadcaster SVT dispelled Swedes' unfounded fears of a Russian invasion as worthless conspiracy theories.

    "We respect the integrity of Sweden and we have no plans whatsoever to invade Sweden, so the Swedish population can sleep easy," Victor Tatarintsev said, calling the very idea of apprehending a Russian invasion of the key Baltic island of Gotland with its harbors "ludicrous."

    Earlier this year, Sweden re-militarized Gotland for the first time in a decade, stationing troops and air defense on the island, which was previously identified as a likely "entry point" for a Russian "invasion."

    Both the interview and the report emerged amid Swedish top-level concerns about regional plans to lease the Baltic Sea harbors of Slite and Karlshamn to the Russian-owned gas pipeline project Nord Stream 2, aimed at delivering gas from Russia to Germany.

    Whereas local authorities have been looking forward to closing a SEK60mln-deal ($6.5mln) on Nord Stream 2, top-ranking officers and politicians have voiced concerns.

    According to the parliamentary defense committee chairman Allan Widman, the government must at all cost stop the lease of strategically important ports to "Putin's Russia" for the sake of Sweden's security. According to Widman, Russia may use construction works as a façade for placing spies on Swedish territory. In case of an emergency, Gotland may be also used as a jumping-off ground for the Russian Armed Forces. At the same time, leasing Karlshamn harbor in Blekinge County is equally dangerous, since strategic Swedish Navy and Air Forces are stationed in its vicinity, making it an appealing target for the Russians, Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan reported.

    ​Previously, Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces Micael Bydén expressed concern over giving a foreign power access to Swedish infrastructure. On a visit to Stockholm earlier this year, US Vice President Joe Biden declared Nord Stream 2 undesirable, calling it a "bad deal" for Europe.

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    Tags:
    Nord Stream 2, Viktor Tatarintsev, Micael Byden, Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden, Scandinavia, Gotland Island, Baltic Sea, Sweden, Russia
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