Russia exercise parallels Sweden war simulation

Russia exercise parallels Sweden war simulation
A Russian military long range bomber aircraft. Photo: TT
Russian military forces have launched an unexpected huge military exercise, which is taking place as Sweden continues to host thousands of troops from nine countries for a similar war games simulation.

Russia’s military exercise is more than three times the size of the event taking place in northern Sweden this week and is set to involve more than 12,000 soldiers.

The event, which was described by the Russian defence ministry as a “massive surprise inspection”, according to the BBC, is designed to check how prepared the country is for combat. It is understood to be taking place in Russian airspace and in the Komi Republic in northern Russia and will include cruise missile strikes on practice targets.

The manoeuvres come at a time of heightened tension in the region as Nordic countries report increased Russian airforce activity close to their borders.

Sweden’s security service Säpo recently stated that the biggest intelligence threat against the Nordic country in 2014 came from its eastern neighbour.

The parallel Nordic air force exercises simulating a UN peacekeeping mission got underway in Sweden's sub-Arctic north on Monday.

The war games — involving 115 fighter planes and 3,600 troops from nine countries — are being held under the auspices of Nordic military cooperation between non-aligned Sweden and Finland and their NATO neighbour Norway.

Joining the Nordic nations were troops and planes from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands — all Nato members — as well as neutral Switzerland — using bases in the far north of Sweden, Norway and Finland.

“I'm looking forward to exercises that prepare Sweden's and Europe's airforces for future challenges and missions,” Colonel Carl-Johan Edström, head of Sweden's northern air force fleet, said in a statement at the launch of the Arctic Challenge Exercise (ACE).

“We create our security together with others and that means we need to train,” he added.

Similar exercises involving fewer countries were held in 2013.

In April all five Nordic defence ministers published an op-ed article in a Norwegian daily announcing closer military cooperation.

“The Russian military are acting in a challenging way along our borders,” they wrote, adding that “we must be prepared to face possible crises or incidents.”

The exercises continue until June 4th and will be followed on June 5th by NATO’s annual Baltops (Baltic Operations) manoeuvres with 4,500 troops from 17 countries.

“These kind of activities send a security policy signal that demonstrate that we can carry out advanced operations,” said Swedish Major General Karl Engelbrektson in a statement.

“At the same time we're showing solidarity towards the other participants, especially our nearest neighbours.”