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9 Jan, 2024 02:19

Swedes told to ‘prepare for war’

The country must brace for a potential confrontation with Russia, delegates at a major conference have been told
Swedes told to ‘prepare for war’

Top Swedish officials have urged the country's citizens to prepare for a potential war, amid rising tensions with Moscow. The statements were made at the Folk och Forsvar National Conference in Salen.

In a speech on Sunday, Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom hailed his country’s expected membership in NATO as “the biggest change in Swedish security policy in more than 200 years.”

Billstrom warned that “Russia will constitute a serious threat to the security of Sweden and Europe for the foreseeable future.” He added that Stockholm “must be realistic and assume – and be prepared for – a drawn-out confrontation.”

Echoing the sentiment, Defense Minister Pal Jonson said, “war can also come to us,” claiming that Ukraine is acting as “Europe’s shield” in the conflict with Russia.

Last year, Sweden ditched its policy of non-alignment in favor of joining NATO, citing Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, which was launched in February 2022. The neighboring state of Finland opted for the same, joining NATO in April 2023.

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson announced recently that 800 Swedish soldiers will be deployed in Latvia next year to reinforce the 2,000 Canada-led troops stationed there as part of the military bloc’s Enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltic states.

Speaking on his country’s future role in NATO at the same annual conference last year, Kristersson said, “having nuclear weapons on our own territory in peacetime is in the cards.”

Moscow has stated that NATO’s continuing expansion towards Russia’s western borders, as well as the refusal to rule out Ukrainian membership in the future, are among the key causes of the ongoing conflict. Russia sees NATO as a threat to national security.

Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov has accused the West of turning Europe into an “arena for confrontation.” The accession of Finland and Sweden will “have a negative impact on the situation in Europe,” he warned.

Moscow has also stated that the deliveries of weapons and money to Kiev make NATO countries de facto participants in the conflict.

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