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9 Jan, 2024 02:19

‘War can come to Sweden’ – defense minister

The Nordic state must brace for a possible confrontation with Russia, a top official in Stockholm said
‘War can come to Sweden’ – defense minister

Sweden’s top officials have urged their people to prepare for a possible war, amid the rising tensions with Russia. The ministers made their statement at the multi-day Folk och Forsvar National Conference in Salen.

In his speech on Sunday, Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom hailed his country’s expected membership in the US-led NATO military bloc as “the biggest change in Swedish security policy in more than 200 years.”

Billstrom warned that “Russia will constitute a serious threat to the security of Sweden and Europe for the foreseeable future.” He admitted that Stockholm “must be realistic and assume – and be prepared for – a drawn-out confrontation”

Echoing his sentiment, Defense Minister Pal Jonson declared that “war can also come to us.” He claimed that Ukraine is acting as “Europe’s shield” during its conflict with Russia.

Last year, Sweden ditched its centuries-old policy of non-alignment in favor of joining NATO, citing Russia’s ongoing operation in the neighboring state, which was launched in February 2022. Sweden’s Nordic neighbor Finland has done the same, having joined NATO in April 2023.

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson announced recently that 800 Swedish soldiers will be deployed in Latvia next year to reinforce the 2,000 Canada-led troops stationed there as part of the bloc’s Enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltic states.

Speaking on his country’s future role in NATO at the same annual conference last year, Kristersson affirmed that “having nuclear weapons on our own territory in peacetime is in the cards.”

Moscow has repeatedly stated that NATO’s continuing expansion towards Russia’s western borders, as well as the refusal to rule out Ukraine’s membership in the future, are among the key causes of the ongoing conflict. Russia sees NATO as a threat to its national security.

Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov has accused the West of turning Europe into an “arena for confrontation.” The accession of Finland and Sweden will “have a negative impact on the situation in Europe,” he warned.

Moscow has also stated that the deliveries of weapons and money to Kiev makes NATO countries de facto direct participants in the conflict.