With tensions raised throughout Europe over a newly belligerent Russia, Sweden’s army and the United States Marines concluded a drill on Sunday on Gotland, a Swedish island with strategic significance for management of the Baltic Sea.
“A lot of us thought that there wouldn’t be a need to defend Gotland after Soviet collapse,” Col. Magnus Frykvall, commander of Sweden’s Gotland regiment, mentioned in a phone interview. “This has been put in a totally new point of view since the war in Ukraine in 2014, and it was even more clear to us with the current invasion.”
The drill got here as fears of army battle with Russia, which not way back appeared unimaginable in Sweden, have led the nation to use for membership in NATO. Gotland poses a vital space of concern for Sweden, which like Russia borders the Baltic Sea. Gotland is the Baltic’s largest island.
The drill was a part of a broader annual train wherein the United States despatched a large warship, the U.S.S. Kearsarge, to Stockholm’s port, together with 26 warplanes and 2,400 Marines and sailors.
It was the primary time that the army train, referred to as Baltic Operations, included U.S. Marines on Gotland and land-based actions there, Colonel Frykvall mentioned.
The train, he mentioned, featured Marines swiftly linking up with Swedish troops on Gotland’s seashore, then working to uproot an enemy pressure from a touchdown strip that invaders had gained management of and begun to make use of to deliver extra troops onto the island.
Gotland’s historical past exhibits its strategic significance.
Russia invaded the island in 1808 throughout a conflict with Sweden, resulting in a month of combating. Russian forces additionally landed on the island on the finish of World War II in 1945 as a type of “power projection,” Colonel Frykvall mentioned.
At the peak of the Cold War, 25,000 Swedish army personnel have been stationed on Gotland, he mentioned. But in 2005, the nation closed down its army regiment on the island.
“Sweden thought that there would never be a war in Europe again,” Colonel Frykvall mentioned.
Then got here Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which prompted Sweden to renew a army presence on Gotland in 2014.
There are about 400 Swedish members of the army on Gotland — for the second, Colonel Frykvall mentioned.
“The numbers of military personnel on the island will surely grow quite fast,” Colonel Frykvall mentioned. “We’re looking at wartime organization of 4,000 in a couple years.”