Sweden's biggest military exercise in 20 years criticised
The largest military exercise in Sweden in over 20 years begins on Monday, but critics argue that it is likely to increase military tensions in the region.
Sweden's Armed Forces say that the military exercise, Aurora 17, which involves several NATO countries, including the USA, will strengthen Sweden's ability to withstand an attack. (Sweden is not a member of NATO.)
However, several peace organisations who have joined forces in a resistance campaign, are critical of the two-week long military manoeuvres.
"This is a really big problem for us because the exercise is part of Sweden getting closer and closer to Nato. The exercise itself is an example of this because troops from four or five Nato countries will take part in the Aurora in Sweden. We strongly oppose Swedish politics turning closer to Nato," Tomas Magnusson, chairman of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Association's local office in Gothenburg tells Radio Sweden.
The Armed Forces emphasize that it is not a NATO exercise but a Swedish national defense force exercise. It says the participation of foreign forces will improve the manoeuvres and allow Sweden to practise the ability to receive and support foreign troops.
Colonel Stefan Sandborg, tells Swedish Radio that the criticism that Aurora 17 will heighten military tension in the Baltic region is unjustified.
"There will always be people who have such an approach to it. My professional view of the exercise is that we are now focusing on building our ability to handle an armed attack."
The exercise is the largest in Sweden for over 20 years, with about 20,000 participants. It will concentrate in particular around Mälardalen, Stockholm, Gothenburg and Gotland between September 11 and September 29.
Several NATO countries are invited to participate, including the United States and France.