Swedes train with Nato on Russian border
The Local · 9 Mar 2014, 14:00
Published: 09 Mar 2014 14:00 GMT+01:00
The exercise had been pencilled in long before the crisis in Ukraine and is scheduled to run for a fortnight in northern Norway. A total of 16,000 soldiers are participating in operation 'Cold Response' with Sweden providing 1,400 of them.
However, the training exercise is sure to draw the attention of the Russian military who branded a similar operation in 2012 as "provocation."
"The defence needs to train and this is an excellent chance to train together with Nato," colonel Jan Mörtberg told Dagens Nyheter (DN).
Asked specifically if the exercise could be interpreted as an act of provocation towards Russia the colonel said; "You can't exclude that but it should be clear we do not have any scenarios where we are at war with Russia.
"Besides, the training area is far from the Russian border and the exercise has been announced well in advance," Mörtberg told the newspaper.
Sweden is currently a Nato partner, not a member, but recent events in Ukraine have urged a rethink on their Nato status. Deputy Prime Minister Jan Björklund hinted the crisis could lead to Sweden joining the military alliance.
"You have to build up your fire brigade to the same dimension as the risk of a fire," Björklund told the TT news agency.
"How many people thought that Russia would go into Crimea? The same argument could hold true for the Baltic states," he added.
Björklund's suggestion for "a new defence doctrine" didn't find favour with the Armed Forces Supreme Commander Sverker Göransson who said the military was on the "right path" with their existing protocol.
The peacekeeping drill in northern Norway is the largest exercise which the Swedish armed forces will participate in during 2014. Colonel Lars Karlsson, who will lead the Swedish soldiers, said it was an important exercise with particular emphasis on safety.
"It is a large and very challenging exercise," he told DN.
Operation Cold Response is due to finish on March 21st.