Sweden Takes Steps To Strengthen The Defenses Of A Strategic Island After Russian Television Discloses That It Is Now A Primary Target For Putin, Following The Nation’s Accession To NATO

Sweden Takes Steps To Strengthen The Defenses Of A Strategic Island After Russian Television Discloses That It Is Now A Primary Target For Putin, Following The Nation's Accession To NATO

Ulf Kristersson informed The Financial Times that one of the initial topics Sweden will broach with its NATO allies after joining the military alliance is the reinforcement of Gotland.

Gotland, an island with approximately 60,000 inhabitants, is located approximately 50 miles from the Swedish coastline and 150 miles from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

Strengthening Gotland “is one obvious thing to be discussed with our new NATO allies,” Kristersson told the FT.

“Everything to do with the Baltic Sea is such an obvious candidate,” Kristersson said. “That goes in terms of presence on Gotland, but also in terms of surveillance, in terms of submarine capabilities.”

Gotland marked with an arrow in the Baltic Sea

Sweden’s formalization of its NATO membership last week, as reported by Business Insider’s Tom Porter, is perceived as a significant development for the bloc’s capacity to counter potential Russian aggression.

Gotland, acknowledged for its critical strategic location in the Baltic Sea, is often dubbed an “unsinkable aircraft carrier.” According to analysts Anna Wieslander and Eric Adamson from the Atlantic Council, the control of Gotland holds pivotal importance for the defense of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, and Poland.

Sweden’s military presence on the island has experienced fluctuations in recent years. Initially demilitarized in 2005 during a period of relatively optimistic post-Cold War relations, Gotland saw the re-commissioning of an armored regiment in 2018 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

In April 2022, amid Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Swedish government announced a $160 million investment in the island’s military infrastructure. Presently, approximately 370 soldiers are stationed there, as reported by the FT. The island also hosts Leopard 2 tanks, CV90 armored vehicles, and an air defense system, according to the Atlantic Council.

Sweden’s stance has shifted significantly from its previous neutral status in recent years. In January, Carl-Oskar Bohlin, the civil defense minister, bluntly cautioned of the possibility of war in Sweden, alarming some opposition politicians, according to the BBC.

Furthermore, Sweden is among the 18 countries projected to increase defense spending to 2% of GDP, in line with NATO’s recommended threshold, as Russia gears its economy towards further militarization.

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