Sweden never wanted NATO membership, but 'now we have US-led military drills on our land’
While the US is building up its presence in Poland with more than a thousand military vehicles, including nearly 200 tanks and an entire infantry division as part of the existing NATO force in Eastern Europe, American troops are now involved in Sweden's biggest military exercises in more than 20 years.
Sweden is a signatory of the so-called host nation agreement that enables foreign units, specifically NATO, to operate within Swedish borders for exercises, crises or military operations.
The exercises are described as preparation for a ‘Russian attack,’ and involve several thousand more troops than the concurrent Russia-Belarus Zapad 2017 maneuvers.
RT: Sweden is having its biggest military exercises in two decades alongside NATO. Could this be the start of stronger links between the alliance and Sweden?
Marilyn Barden: Well, that is what they are trying. We hear every day from newspapers and TV, we have interviews with the military saying this is very important; we must have these training exercises. There are lots of troops coming from the US. Most of the foreign troops that are here on the island of Gotland and on the mainland, the foreigners are US troops
RT: Why conduct drills on this kind of scale now? Is Sweden trying to change its image to a more military-orientated one?
MB: This is the first training of the host land agreement that Sweden made with the US last spring. It went through the parliament. We know the Swedish people did not want this agreement. We’ve been working very strongly in the northern NATO group, and we have had polls that have said the people are not interested in this. They pushed it through the parliament despite the fact that we are against that. There are several parties in the parliament that are against that, they pushed it through. And this is the first big maneuver to show that one can train together.
RT: NATO has looked to expand in areas it sees as geographically important. Are Scandinavia and Sweden important to the bloc?
MB: Definitely, because Norway and Denmark are a part of NATO and now all of the Baltic countries are a part of NATO. One is trying to surround the former Soviet Union or Russia and pushing further and further close around Russia with troops that have not at all existed there before.
RT: If Sweden is looking to spend more on its military needs. How could that impact on the country's economy?
MB: The economy is already quite involved with the US financially. We are a part of the military-industrial complex that is also wound up in the US. We have a lot of the parts for our airplanes and various things, and that is why feel that we must be closer to the US, we must get closely involved with their policy. But they don’t realize that when they say this, that this means that we will have nuclear weapons here in our country also, and the Swedes are definitely against nuclear weapons.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.