Nearly one in three Swedes think the country should join Nato, a major poll suggested last month, up from 29 percent of Swedes in 2013 and 17 percent in 2012.
The shift in public opinion is largely credited to a rising fear in the Nordic country of a potentially aggressive Russia. Sweden’s security service Säpo recently stated that the biggest intelligence threat against the Nordic country in 2014 came from its eastern neighbour.
On Thursday, Russia's ambassador to Sweden, Viktor Tatarintsev, hit out in an interview with the Dagens Nyheter daily at what he called an “aggressive propaganda campaign” by Swedish media.
“Russia is often described as an attacker who only thinks of conducting wars and threatening others. But I can guarantee that Sweden, which is an alliance-free nation, is not part of any military plans by Russian authorities. Sweden is not a target for our armed troops,” he said.
However, he underlined that if Sweden were to abandon its alliance neutrality and join the Western military organization, Russia would adopt “counter measures”.
“I don't think it will become relevant in the near future, even though there has been a certain swing in public opinion. But if it happens there will be counter measures. Putin pointed out that there will be consequences, that Russia will have to resort to a response of the military kind and re-orientate our troops and missiles. The country that joins Nato needs to be aware of the risks it is exposing itself to” he told DN.
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Swedish-Russian relations have been under strain lately, following increased military presence in the Baltic Sea.
In September 2014 two SU-24 fighter-bombers allegedly entered Swedish airspace in what the former Foreign Minister Carl Bildt called "the most serious aerial incursion by the Russians" in almost a decade.
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The following month a foreign submarine was spotted in Swedish waters, although the Swedish military was unable to determine where it came from.
“I think that there is a new security situation in the Baltic area and in the Baltic Sea,” Sweden’s Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist told The Local on the day the sighting was confirmed.
He has also announced that the country's navy is upgrading its fleet of ships in order to improve its ability to locate rogue submarines in Swedish waters.