05:37 GMT +322 January 2020
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    Despite its formally non-aligned stance, Sweden seems to be weaving a dense net of international military partnerships. Stockholm is particularly keen to re-fuel its cooperation with the US, enticing Washington with its "unique" expertise on Russia.

    Swedish armoured personnel carriers are seen in Visby harbour, island of Gotland, Sweden September 14, 2016. Picture taken September 14, 2016.
    © REUTERS / TT News Agency/ Soren Andersson
    Recently, the Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces Micael Bydén met Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford with the aim of extending military cooperation.

    "We have identified a few areas to work with. Among other things, it's about cyber security, air defense and submarine issues, everything from pure research and development to practical exercises," Micael Bydén told Swedish Radio.

    In the course of the meeting, it also transpired that Sweden and the US held similar opinions about Russia's actions and security developments and agreed to share information in order to be able to draw the right and timely conclusions, Micael Bydén acknowledged. According to him, Sweden can particularly contribute to the data exchange with its exceptional understanding of Russia.

    "We have a lot to contribute with, as we never tear our eyes and ears away from Russia. We have a good knowledge of the Russian Armed Forces and we keep track of what they are doing. It's clear that we are interesting because we live close to Russia and follow their actions," Micael Bydén told Swedish Radio.

    A female Swedish soldier participates in joint Russian-Swedish military training exercises, 12 December 2007, outside St. Petersburg in the town Kamenka
    Micael Bydén also hailed the planned rearmament of the US Armed Forces as largely beneficial for Sweden's own security amid Russia's "resurgence."

    Bydén had previously asked for a 6.5 billion SEK ($760mln) defense budget hike for the Swedish Armed Forces to be able to parry the alleged Russian "aggression," which apparently only exists theoretically, yet was pleased to settle for a considerably more modest 500 million SEK ($56mln) increase.

    Earlier, nuclear war shelters were reportedly being readied in Sweden to prepare for a surprise Russian attack. The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) ordered a comprehensive inspection of the country's roughly 65,000 bunkers that were established during the Cold War era to protect up to 7 million Swedes (out of today's 10 million) in the event of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

    The fictitious Russian threat also prompted Sweden to re-introduce conscription after a decade of failed attempts to maintain a draft-based army, during which the Swedish Armed Forces kept suffering from a dramatic shortage of personnel in both commissioned officers and rank-and-file soldiers.

    Additionally, Russia was found to pose the largest intelligence threat to Sweden in the recently published 2016 annual report by the Swedish Security Service SÄPO.

    "Within the framework of our counterintelligence activity, we can denote Russia as the biggest intelligence threat against Sweden and Swedish interests," SÄPO Anders Thornberg told the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter.

    Lisa Simonson, Assistant Director of SÄPO's counterintelligence department called Russia "the country with the highest absolute capacity for conducting covert intelligence-gathering with all methods available."

    "It is our greatest challenge all the time. They have a huge organization to carry on the clandestine intelligence efforts," Lisa Simonson said told Dagens Nyheter.


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    intelligence, Swedish Security Service Säpo, Joseph Dunford, Micael Byden, United States, Scandinavia, Russia, Sweden
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