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Armed Forces will not comment on report of increased Russian threat

Published måndag 19 september 2016 kl 11.44
DN: From "unlikely" to "low probability" of an attack
(2:56 min)
Militärer i skogen.
A permanent military presence on the island of Gotland is back for the first time since 2005. Photo: Yvonne Ņsell/SvD/TT

Top-secret information about an increased threat that Russia poses to Sweden was behind a decision to put permanent troops on the island of Gotland earlier than previously planned, according to the daily Dagens Nyheter.

The newspaper's Defence Correspondent Mikael Holmström says it is very difficult to assess the information, as his sources will not say exactly what the information is, as that may risk revealing how they have got it.

"When it comes to intelligence information, you always want to protect the sources behind it, which makes it difficult to assess, but I have managed to establish that the threat has increased and some of what has happened lately confirms that," Holmström told Swedish Radio.

He refers among others to the decision last week by the Supreme Commander of Sweden's Armed Forces to order 150 troops training on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea to remain there as a permanent force.

Already in the spring of last year, the Swedish parliament decided to reestablish a permanent military presence on Gotland, for the first time since 2005 when the Gotland garrison was closed.
But it was then said it would happen some time before 2018, so last weeks announcement from the Supreme Commander came as a surprise.

This move is called "exceptional" by professor Wilhelm Agrell at Lund University, who specialises in intelligence analysis.

"Something has happened in the intelligence picture. We as citizens do not know what it is, but we see the effects of it. The quick re-establishment a unit on Gotland is exceptional," Agrell told Dagens Nyheter.

Mikael Holmström at Dagens Nyheter also notes that there is a change in the language used by the Armed Forces when it comes to assessing the risk of a military attack on Sweden. Earlier this year the head of the army described an attack as "unlikely". Supreme commander Micael Byden is now preferring the term "low probability".

According to Wilhelm Agrell, this is an important shift. He interprets "unlikely" as a risk of a couple of percent that an attack will happen, while "low probability" could mean anything up to 15 percent. Still low, in other words, but a significant difference.

A press spokesperson from the Armed Forces told TT they do not comment on their intelligence work, but said there was no specific event that led to the decision to put troops permanently on Gotland now, but a "worsening situation over time". And Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist declined to comment the information in Dagens Nyheter.

The Moderate Party defence spokesperson, Hans Wallmark, told TT that he has not been informed by the government about an increased threat from Russia, but said he is not surprised. He is now calling for the government to meet with the parties with which it has reached a defence agreement to review the security situation.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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