Stockholm: Sweden is preparing to hold “first and largest” exercise of its kind in over 20 years involving all of its military branches as well as troops from several NATO countries, to boost its deterrence capabilities, the Swedish military said.
The exercise, Aurora 17, which is scheduled for September, is designed to strengthen Sweden’s defense capabilities and create a “credible and visible” deterrent that would force any potential enemies “to carefully consider the risks of attacking our country,” the Swedish Armed Forces said in statement.
Some 19,000 soldiers from all military branches are expected to participate in the exercise, which will be conducted in the air, on land and at sea. The major training areas will be in the southeastern Stockholm-Maelaren region and the Gothenburg area, as well as on and around the island of Gotland, not far from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.
The statement also called the drill “the first and largest exercise of its kind in more than 20 years.”“Several other countries,” mostly NATO members, were invited to participate in the exercises to enhance “Sweden’s defense capability against a larger, sophisticated opponent,” the statement added in apparent reference to Russia.
Military units from NATO members such as Denmark, Estonia, France, Lithuania, Norway and the US, as well as from nonaligned Finland, will take part in the drills, according to the Armed Forces of Sweden, which is also not a member of the bloc.
Russia repeatedly expressed its concern over Sweden’s increased military activities and its closer cooperation with NATO. In early June, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that Moscow would have to take additional security measures if the Scandinavian country decided to join the alliance.
“If Sweden joins NATO, that will affect our [bilateral] relations in a negative way,” Putin said at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, adding that Russia would have to react to the decision as if it were “an additional threat.”