IN PICS: Sweden stages biggest military exercise in 25 years

AFP - [email protected]
IN PICS: Sweden stages biggest military exercise in 25 years
An American battalion arrives in Östersund after crossing the border from Norway, during the first day of the Aurora 23 exercise. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Gathering 26,000 soldiers from 14 nations, Sweden on Monday launched its largest military manoeuvres in more than 25 years, as the country's bid to join NATO remains blocked.


"The exercise takes place in the air, on the ground and at sea in large parts of the country," the Swedish Armed Forces said, announcing the exercise which is scheduled to run until May 11th.

The focus will be on southern and northern Sweden and the strategically important island of Gotland.

The United States, the United Kingdom, Finland, Poland, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Denmark, Austria, Germany and France are all also taking part.

US infantry troops accompanying an armoured battalion as it arrives in Östersund from across the border in Norway on Monday. Photo: Pontus Lundahl / TT

With most of the participants NATO members, the exercises are spotlighting Sweden's ongoing struggle to join the military alliance.

Ending two centuries of neutrality and military non-alignment Sweden, along with neighbouring Finland, announced bids to join NATO in May 2022, in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

But while Finland managed to become the 31st member of NATO on April 4th, Sweden's bid still faces opposition.

Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Knowles, commander of the US battalion which arrived outside Östersund on Monday, holds a joint press conference with Brigadier General Stefan Andersson and Lars Karlsson, commander of Sweden's northern military region, as part of Aurora 23, the biggest military exercise in Sweden in 30 years. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/ TT

New members need to be unanimously ratified by all members of the alliance, and Sweden still faces opposition from Ankara and Budapest.

Sweden has especially angered Turkey by refusing to extradite dozens of suspects that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan links to a failed 2016 coup attempt and a decades-long Kurdish independence struggle.


NATO diplomats hope Erdogan will become more agree to ratification if he wins elections next month.

US troops set up camp at a location outside Östersund as part of the Aurora 23 military exercise, which will be held between 17 April and 11 May 2023. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

The Nordic nation has had close ties with NATO ever since joining the Partnership for Peace programme in the 1990s, but as a non-member, it is not covered by the security guarantees of NATO's Article 5 on collective defence.

While surrounded by alliance members, as the only Nordic country outside NATO, experts say Sweden could become a strategic interest for Russia in the event of a conflict.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also