Interest from foreign countries in holding military drills in northern Sweden has gained strength like an avalanche in recent years.
“In the past four years, training of foreign military has increased by 350 percent,” Morgan Gustafsson, the head of the Swedish Armed Forces' winter unit, told Swedish Radio.
The Swedish Armed Forces, both soldiers and offices, receive winter training in Norbotten County, in either Arvidsjaur or Boden, which is home to the historical Boden fortress and hosts Sweden's largest garrison. Both of them have a subarctic climate dominated by long winters and moderately warm but bright summers.
In recent years, they have received company from their peers from abroad, including Norway, Finland, and even countries from the so-called Transatlantic link, most notably the United States.
“Just like Sweden, many other countries have opened their eyes to reclaiming winter skills”, Gustafsson pointed out.
According to Gustafsson, this is a token of uncertainty in the outside world, which causes more countries to review their defence capabilities.
“On the one hand, I think it has to do with an increased threat that requires winter ability, but on the other hand it's the geographical location in Arctic Scandinavia with ice melting and natural resources that people are interested in”, Gustafsson explained.
The interest in receiving winter training in Arvidsjaur, which is also a centre for the European car industry (Arctic trials are held there by major car manufacturers), exceeds the army unit's opportunities. At one point, the US wanted to send two brigades totalling 10,000 men. This never came about since Arvidsjaur municipality has fewer than 5,000 inhabitants.
Sweden remains formally non-aligned and hasn't waged a war in over two hundred years. However, in recent years, it has markedly stepped up defence cooperation with both NATO and, at a bilateral level, with the US.
In 2017, Sweden held the international drill Aurora 17, the biggest on its soil in decades.