NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)
Comment by the Foreign Ministry’s official representative on Sweden’s military exercises with NATO member countries
We have noted the assessments by Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist of the benefits of building up joint exercises between Swedish military personnel and NATO member-countries units, including the US, on Swedish territory. He said they help the national armed forces enhance their combat readiness and strengthen regional security. In early November of this year, Sweden hosted comprehensive Swedish-US military manoeuvres for two weeks (involving US Air Force special units among others).
We also noted the fact that not all Swedes share the enthusiasm of the Defence Ministry leaders. Thus, on November 15, authoritative Swedish diplomats Sven Hirdman (former ambassador to Russia) and Pierre Schori (former first deputy foreign minister and ambassador to the UN) emphasised in daily Dagens Nyheter that regular exercises with NATO raises more questions about Sweden’s non-aligned status and are obviously counterproductive to promoting security in the north of Europe. They observed that during the exercises Swedish military personnel not only polished their actions on receiving foreign aid in case of an outside attack but also underwent a drill on joint offensive operations.
It is noteworthy that the reaction to the well-reasoned criticism by Swedish diplomats towards pro-Atlantic circles in Sweden turned out to be very sensitive. Several Swedish media outlets rushed to publish articles describing the views of the professional diplomats as “strictly personal opinion” that does not correspond to today’s realities.
For our part, we are convinced that Sweden’s participation in joint military exercises with US task forces, which provide for offensive operations, will not strengthen stability in the north of Europe. In this context, we would like to emphasise again Russia’s willingness to hold direct discussions with our Swedish and other partners on the real challenges to security in any dialogue format.