Sweden and the United States hold a military exercise on the island of Gotland

As tensions rise across Europe over a newly belligerent Russia, the Swedish army and U.S. Marines on Sunday concluded a drill on Gotland...

As tensions rise across Europe over a newly belligerent Russia, the Swedish army and U.S. Marines on Sunday concluded a drill on Gotland, a strategically important Swedish island for control of the Baltic Sea.

“Many of us thought there would be no need to defend Gotland after the Soviet collapse,” Colonel Magnus Frykvall, commander of the Swedish Gotland Regiment, said in a telephone interview. “It’s been put in a whole new light since the war in Ukraine in 2014, and it was even clearer to us with the current invasion.”

Exercise came as fears of a military conflict with Russia, which not so long ago seemed unimaginable in Sweden, led the country to apply for NATO membership. Gotland poses a critical problem for Sweden, which, like Russia, borders the Baltic Sea. Gotland is the largest island in the Baltic.

The exercise was part of a larger annual exercise in which the U.S. shipped a giant warship, the USS Kearsarge, at the port of Stockholm, with 26 combat aircraft and 2,400 Marines and sailors.

It was the first time that the military exercise, known as the Baltic operationsincluded US Marines on Gotland and ground actions there, Col. Frykvall said.

The exercise, he said, featured Marines quickly linking up with Swedish troops on Gotland beach, then working to uproot an enemy force from an airstrip the invaders had taken over and started using to bring more troops to the island.

The history of Gotland shows its strategic importance.

Russia invaded the island in 1808 during a war with Sweden, resulting in a month of fighting. Russian forces also landed on the island at the end of World War II in 1945 as a form of “power projection”, Colonel Frykvall said.

At the height of the Cold War, 25,000 Swedish servicemen were stationed in Gotland, he said. But in 2005, the nation closed its military regiment on the island.

“Sweden thought there would never be a war in Europe again,” Colonel Frykvall said.

Then came Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which prompted Sweden to resume a military presence on Gotland in 2014.

There are around 400 Swedish servicemen in Gotland – at the moment, Colonel Frykvall said.

“The number of military personnel on the island will surely increase quite quickly,” Colonel Frykvall said. “We are looking at a wartime organization of 4,000 people in a few years.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Sweden and the United States hold a military exercise on the island of Gotland
Sweden and the United States hold a military exercise on the island of Gotland
Newsrust - US Top News
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