The Swedish armed forces have once again become more active – and again, as, basically, in recent years – because of the “Russian threat” widely discussed by the West. At the end of the past week, drones were seen over at least two nuclear power plants in Sweden, and the country’s authorities, in parallel with the investigation of these incidents, increased their military presence on the island of Gotland. We figured out how serious the danger declared by official Stockholm is and how far it is from the long-discussed accession of the Scandinavian country to NATO.
As early as Friday, January 14, two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) of unknown origin were spotted over two nuclear power plants (NPPs) in Sweden – Forsmark and Oskarhamn. If the first news about the UAV was connected with the fact that one of the locals was “playing around” with drones, then later the authorities called the incident extremely serious. This was reinforced by reports of an unidentified vehicle over the Ringhals nuclear power plant.
None of the sighted drones were shot down, but at least two factors indicate that serious forces could be behind unauthorized flights. Firstly, the zones above nuclear power plants are no-fly zones; launching your own drone there is fraught with severe punishment for any local resident. Secondly, according to the information about the incident over the Forsmark nuclear power plant, the UAV flying there was large enough and capable of developing high speed.
That is, we are talking, if not about a combat drone, which is equipped with a supply of shock weapons, and therefore heavier than others, then at least a professional reconnaissance apparatus.
So far, no accusations have been made against a specific party from Stockholm, but the very fact of the simultaneous investigation of three incidents with UAVs, coupled with the fact that the Swedish military has increased its presence on the island of Gotland, is indicative. In particular, a special unit consisting of at least ten armored vehicles and about a hundred fighters was sent to the territory in the Baltic Sea, which belongs to Sweden.
Such measures have already been directly explained by the growing, according to the Swedes, the threat of Russia in the Ukrainian direction – against the backdrop of a series of unsuccessful negotiations between the Russian Federation and Western countries last week. “Controlling Gotland has great influence over the entire Baltic Sea. If any other [other than Swedish] weapons are placed on the island, this will affect Sweden, Finland and the entire Baltic, ”said Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist in this regard.
This is far from the first time that it is in Stockholm that the alarm is sounded regarding the “Kremlin aggression”. Back in the fall of 2014, shortly after the annexation of Crimea to Russia – and as a result of the unprecedented cooling of relations between Moscow and the collective West – the Swedish media reported on a Russian mini-submarine allegedly damaged off the coast of their country. The search for the submarine, however, yielded nothing, and five years later it was recognized that the signals that became the reason for the operation came from a faulty weather buoy.
However, even the debunked myths about the Russian threat do not dampen the enthusiasm of the Western military. Sweden is not a member of the North Atlantic Alliance, therefore, in its opinion, all possible “encroachments” from Russia are trying to stop and investigate on their own. At the same time, as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated, the Swedes (as well as the Finns), if they have a clear request, can be accepted into the military bloc as soon as possible. The current Swedish government, however, so far refuses to do so.
It is easy to explain such a “half-hearted” policy of Stockholm: being an economically prosperous country, Sweden does not want to spend extra money on mandatory contributions for membership in the alliance. In addition, both in Swedish society itself and in the political elite of the Scandinavian country there is no consensus on the need to join NATO, Dmitry Danilov, head of the European security department at the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said in a conversation with MK.
As the analyst emphasized, Sweden is de facto already in the orbit of the North Atlantic Alliance, enjoying almost all the advantages of cooperation with it, with the exception of Chapter 5 of the bloc’s Charter, according to which an attack on a NATO member is regarded as a threat to the entire association.
“Against the background of a rather rigidly defined Russian position in negotiations with the United States in particular and NATO in general, the overactivity of the Swedish military is not surprising,” Dmitry Danilov believes. – At the same time, Sweden undoubtedly demonstrates that, not being a member of the alliance, it is still part of the Euro-Atlantic strategy to contain Russia in the military and political spheres.
Stockholm long ago adopted a policy of building up cooperation with NATO within the framework of various partnership programs. And, of course, Sweden is quite capable of quickly joining the Alliance. But for Stockholm, it is also important to maintain a conditionally neutral status, as well as independence from decisions made, for example, by the American side within NATO. Therefore, without a serious aggravation in Europe, one should not expect Sweden to join the bloc in the short term.