Sweden will boost military exercises with NATO amid concerns of Russia’s increasingly defiant posture, Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist said on Friday, according to AFP.
Sweden, which is not part of NATO and has a tradition of not joining military alliances, will take part in NATO exercises in Spain in September.
Hultqvist told a Swedish newspaper that the decision was a result of Russian military movements.
“It’s a general fact that Russia is carrying out bigger, more complex, and in some cases more provocative and defiant, exercises,” Hultqvist said. “We are following that development and are now strengthening our military capability and our international cooperation.”
Sweden had already taken part in NATO exercises in the Baltic Sea.
In response to the possibility of Sweden joining NATO in the future, Russian Ambassador Viktor Tatarintsev warned a Swedish newspaper that such a decision would bring Russian countermeasures against Stockholm.
Tatarintsev also mentioned that Russia would “have to resort” to a military response and would reorientate troops and missiles, adding that “the country that joins NATO needs to be aware of the risks it is exposing itself to.”
“We need to keep up with the new reality,” Hultqvist said. “It is broadly anchored in parliament that it is important for the United States to be militarily represented in Europe and this is part of the balance.”
Although Sweden’s defence budget has continuously been cut since the end of the Cold War, the country’s defence ministry proposed increasing the county’s defence budget “to prepare Sweden for war“.
In the past, Swedish public opinion has been long opposed to the country becoming part of NATO. However, an October 2014 poll showed 37% of Swedes were in favour of joining NATO with 36% of Swedes against — the first time that more Swedes have favoured joining the alliance than not.
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