Not Only Ukraine Faces Russian Threats. A Swedish Perspective

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As Russian ships get close to Swedish waters, Sweden boosts its Baltic military presence. «I’ve been stocking up on supplies,» says a Swede. ««It seems like we Swedes are more afraid of the big bad Russian bear over here in Stockholm, than people are back in Kyiv.»
Photo by Ana Bórquez on Unsplash

Photo by Ana Bórquez on Unsplash

By Joe Lindsley, editor, Lviv Now

«It seems like we Swedes are more afraid of the big bad Russian bear over here in Stockholm, than people are back in Kyiv,» a friend in Stockholm, a financial analyst and military veteran, said to me this week after we were comparing the moods in Sweden and Ukraine. 

«It’s a feeling of discomfort rather than fear,» he clarified. «I don’t think anyone is expecting [the Russians] to land in Stockholm anytime soon, although Gotland could be in jeopardy, should the they choose to do anything in the Baltics.»

In mid-January, six Russian ships entered the Baltic Sea, which led Sweden to increase its military presence on the island of Gotland. «Within 48 hours, the island of 60,000 inhabitants swarmed with patrolling soldiers and armoured tanks in a scene not seen in decades,» reports France24. 

There have also been reports of unidentified drones flying over the country’s nuclear plants and its Royal Palace. 

Gotland, Sweden’s largest island, is in the Baltic between Sweden and Latvia. It’s a popular summer destination for Stockholmers. During the Finnish wars, before Sweden was neutral as it is today, Russia occupied the island briefly in 1808.

Read more: «Zelenskiy: They Are Attacking Our Nerves, Not Our Land»

Sweden has a policy of neutrality. Like Ukraine, it is is friendly with NATO but not part of the mutual-defense alliance. In December, Moscow’s foreign ministry said if Sweden or Finland joined NATO, it «would have serious military and political consequences that would require an adequate response from the Russian side,» as the Financial Times reports.

Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet published a story 23 January about how Sweden, a country of 10 million compared to Ukraine’s 44 million, could withstand a Russian attack. The analysis said Sweden could survive a week on its own before it needed other nations to help. 

Before the pandemic I was often in Sweden, both under the midnight summer sun and in the total darkness of winter. Now and then in conversation, though not as often as Ukrainians, who tend to joke about Putin and Moscow, Swedes, would talk about Russian threats.

Stockholm, whose waters lead to the Baltic Sea

But my Swedish friend, who has been to Odesa before, suggests there is now a new mood in Sweden, after weeks of global headlines about potential increased aggression against Ukraine from Moscow, which already occupies portions of Ukrainian territory. 

«Anyway I’ve been stocking up on some supplies, if for example they would play with our electrical grid, which I think is entirely plausible even without any military aggression,» my friend said. 

In the Lviv Lab’s Real Ukraine podcast, Konstantyn Chyzhyk, former head of office of Ukraine’s President’s Investment Council, also noted that the Scandinavian and Baltic countries are under threat. 

«This is not just about Ukraine but about the security of all of Europe,» Chyzhyk said. «If [Europe] will give up the principle of Ukrainian territory and serenity today, tomorrow it will be up to Estonia, Lithuania, Sweden, Norway, Finland to defend their lands.»

All of those countries have land or sea borders with Russia. 

Joe Lindsley, an American journalist (follow on Instagram or LinkedIn), is editor of Lviv Now

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Lviv Now is an English-language website for Lviv, Ukraine’s «tech-friendly cultural hub.» It is produced by Tvoe Misto («Your City») media-hub, which also hosts regular problem-solving public forums to benefit the city and its people.

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