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Sweden bolsters defense of Baltic Sea island because of Russia

Sweden bolsters defense of Baltic Sea island because of Russia Commander-in-Chief of the Swedish Armed Forces Micael Bydén (Getty Images)
Author: Maria Kholina

Sweden has strengthened the defense of the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea due to the threat from Russia, according to Commander-in-Chief of the Swedish Armed Forces Micael Bydén.

"Gotland is Swedish territory, so Sweden is obligated to protect it, and Gotland has the right to defense. There were times when we reduced our military presence on Gotland so much that only voluntary home defense forces remained there. Those peaceful times are over," he said.

Bydén added that the war in Ukraine has altered the political situation in Europe, necessitating Sweden to seriously rearm Gotland.

"Currently, we guard the island with permanently stationed units and temporarily deploy additional forces if the threat situation increases. Whoever controls Gotland controls the Baltic Sea. At the moment, that is us," he said

The Commander-in-Chief of the Swedish Armed Forces stressed that Gotland is under military protection and, if necessary, they can use the island for offensive operations.

"We are very interested in keeping the sea route open and monitoring what happens on and beneath the surface. From Gotland, we can help other NATO countries in the Baltic Sea to live safely. But if Putin invades Gotland, he can threaten NATO countries from the sea. This would be the end of peace and stability in the Northern and Baltic regions," he said

At the same time, he expressed confidence that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has his eyes on Gotland.

"Putin's goal is to gain control over the Baltic Sea. He may also be watching the Åland archipelago. The Russians are closely monitoring what happens at the entrances and exits of the Baltic Sea. For Putin, as well as for us, it is crucial that the Baltic Sea remains open and safe," he said.

Bydén added that if Russia takes control of the Baltic Sea and closes it off, it will have a huge impact on Sweden and all other countries bordering the Baltic Sea.

"We must not allow this. The Baltic Sea must not become Putin's playground, where he intimidates NATO members," the military leader emphasized.

Gotland island

Gotland is not just the largest island in Sweden, but also a strategically important outpost in the Baltic Sea.

In January 2022, the peace on the island was disrupted: the gathering of Russian landing ships near its coast forced the Swedish government to urgently deploy troops to Gotland. This incident served as a vivid reminder of geopolitical tensions in the region.

The island is located near important maritime routes that connect the Baltic countries with the rest of the world, and it can serve as a platform for controlling shipping in the region. Gotland is home to a large Swedish military base, Visby garrison, as well as Visby Airport.

Earlier, the Financial Times reported that Sweden's accession to NATO was a significant event, marking a major expansion of the alliance's influence in Northern Europe. This event has far-reaching implications, especially for Russia, whose fleet in the Baltic Sea and oil export routes will be in close proximity to NATO territory.