Sweden recently announced a contingent of 150 troops previously deployed to Gotland Island for a training exercise will remain there permanently.
Russia has called a move by Sweden to deploy a permanent contingent of troops on a strategic island in the Baltic Sea as inconsequential as “buckshot to an elephant.”
Swedish Armed Forces Supreme Commander Michael Byden, in comments to Swedish broadcaster SVT, claimed that “external factors in the world have deteriorated over time and it means I have made a decision about a permanent presence and that we put the battle group here earlier.”
Gotland Island, with a population of approximately 60,000 people, lies off the coast of Latvia. The historic island occupies a strategic location in the middle of the Baltic Sea.
Political analyst Igor Nikolaichuk suggested the deployment is a symbolic move with no effect on Russia’s defense capability.
“The deployment of just 150 Swedish soldiers in Gotland is certainly like buckshot to an elephant as far as Russia’s security is concerned,” he said.
Nikolaichuk lambasted the United States for its attempts to use the false specter of war with Russia to persuade Sweden, which has remained neutral in European military conflicts since 1814, to abandon its neutrality and join NATO.
“The Americans have repeatedly prompted the neutral Nordic countries to show their efforts to strengthen security in the region,” Nikolaichuk added. “Namely, they should avoid standing on the sidelines and instead focus on countering the ‘Russian threat’ and showing unity in a desire to safeguard peace in the Baltic flank of NATO.”
While Sweden is not a member of NATO, the country has moved in recent years to establish closer ties with the military bloc through training exercises.
“Sweden has all but abandoned the neutral stance it projected during the Cold War and is now firmly siding with NATO,” the Wall Street Journal reported last month.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu warned the West that Russia and Belarus will respond accordingly to continued troop deployments along their respective borders.
“Those actions undermine strategic stability and are forcing Russia to take reciprocal defensive measures, including some in the Western theatre,” he said in comments before top military officials from both countries.