Sweden will put troops back on the strategic Baltic Sea island of Gotland after a decade-long absence. Peter Hultqvist, Sweden’s defence minister, said he would recommend placing a company of about 150 soldiers on Gotland, which lies almost midway between mainland Sweden and Latvia in the middle of the Baltic Sea.
Sweden will also step up military exercises around the island involving the army, navy and air force.
“Gotland has a strategic location in the Baltic Sea and this is also an indication to the outside world that we recognise that Gotland is very important. Everything we do is a part of underlining Swedish sovereignty,” he told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
At about 175km long and 50km wide at its broadest point Gotland is Sweden’s largest island. It has not had a permanent military presence since 2005, but is seen as one of the most strategically important locations in the Baltic Sea.
The three Baltic states, fearing the rise of Russian activity and influence in the region, eyed the lack of permanent troops on the island as well as Sweden’s status in not belonging to NATO.
“Gotland is a big worry for us. It could be overrun by Russia in minutes and then all of us would be highly vulnerable to an attack,” a senior Estonian politician said recently.