SWEDEN and Finland have joined forces from 14 NATO countries for major war games amid invasion fears after Vladimir Putin’s threat to “regain” territory.
Some 7,000 troops and 45 ships took part in the military drills alongside the two countries, despite a chilling warning from Russia that it could use nuclear weapons to destroy the regions in “ten seconds”.
Training tasks included airdrops and amphibious landings on Gotland, an island strategically located in the middle of the southern part of the Baltic Sea.
The Swedish armed forces have been practicing with US troops how to defend the island of 58,000 people – and how to retake it from a foreign attacker.
It comes amid heightened tensions as Putin’s war in Ukraine rages on and just weeks after both Finland and Sweden confirmed they would apply for NATO membership.
Putin tried to hold off the move by warning Finnish President Sauli Niinisto that joining the Western alliance was a “mistake”.
Russia, which shares an 830-mile border with Finland, said the country’s entry into the transatlantic alliance would hurt bilateral ties.
Finland has remained militarily non-aligned for 75 years, but after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, political and public opinion shifted dramatically in favor of membership.
Despite their non-aligned status, the two Nordics have regularly practiced with NATO countries.
As military equipment was stationed on the coast, Swedish Colonel Magnus Frykvall, the island’s regimental commander, said: “I feel really well prepared. I mean we made a big bet on Gotland and we will defend Gotland.
“It’s a really difficult task to take a defended island.”
It comes amid Russian threats to retake Sweden like Peter the Great did in the 18th century when he forged a new Russian empire.
Putin said: “One would think he fought with Sweden and conquered their country.
“But he didn’t take anything – he reclaimed it.
The Swedish island of Gotland has seen foreign invasions throughout its history – the last being in 1808 when Russian troops briefly occupied it.
But after the end of the Cold War, Sweden considered the risk of Russian aggression so remote that it focused its forces on foreign peacekeeping operations rather than territorial defense.
The Gotland Regiment was closed in 2005 when Sweden downsized its military.
Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014 prompted a rethink, and a new regiment was raised on Gotland in 2018.
Around 400 Swedish soldiers are now permanently stationed on the island. Further reinforcements are planned after Russia invaded Ukraine.
But many Gotlanders believe that Sweden could not defend the island alone.
Lars Soderdahl, a 33-year-old cook in Visby, the island’s capital, said: “If we were attacked we wouldn’t stand a chance because our defenses are too weak.
“We have a really modern and good defense but it’s too small.”
Meanwhile, Putin has hit back at NATO’s war games by holding major exercises in the Baltic Sea.
The Russian dictator sent 60 warships, 40 airplanes and 2,000 weapons units to sea, while the West flexed its muscles on his doorstep.
It comes as the existing 30 NATO members are set to discuss Finland and Sweden joining the alliance this month amid threats from Russia.
Senior Russian politician Aleksey Zhuravlyov threatened to use his Satan 2 hypersonic missile to atomize Britain in 200 seconds and obliterate Finland in just 10 seconds.
Zhuravlyov, 59, deputy chairman of the Russian parliament’s defense committee, said in an interview that it was “perfectly legitimate” for Russia to “question the existence” of Finland.
Just weeks ago, in the nation’s bold NATO bid, Russia began deploying nuclear missiles on its border with Finland.
Menacing mobile Iskander missiles have been sighted being transported towards the dividing line, while despairing Putin throws a disturbing tantrum.
https://www.the-sun.com/news/5544719/sweden-finland-rehearse-invasion-nato-war-games/ Sweden and Finland are rehearsing INVASION in huge Nato war games after Putin’s chilling threat to “take back” territory.