military affairs

Claims of secret NATO cooperation

A new book released Thursday claims that, until 1997, neutral Sweden’s military included a top-secret Air Force unit that trained together with NATO forces in preparation for a feared invasion from the Soviet bloc.

It should come as little surprise to anyone here that Sweden cooperated with the western military alliance throughout the Cold War.

This while maintaining the formal neutrality that kept this country out of the 20th century’s world wars.

But the new book, The Hidden Alliance – Sweden’s Secret NATO Ties, says a previously unknown unit called Squadron 66 prepared for a possible occupation by the then-Soviet Union, training to rapidly move top politicians and military commanders to NATO countries and to shuttle infiltrators to the Finnish border where they could enter Russian territory.

The author of the book, Mikael Holmström, a military affairs reporter for the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper, says a former chief of staff for the squadron told him that some 10 civilian aircraft were used for training and recognisance missions over Sweden and its Nordic neighbors, sometimes landing at military airfields and wearing local uniforms. The commander said the unit was kept secret even from Swedish politicians, and was discretely protected by the Säpo security police. Pilots operated under code names and received their salaries in cash.

Despite its ostensible status as non-aligned in relation to the major military blocs, Sweden’s Western orientation during the 1945 to 1991 Cold War was an open secret on both sides. During the 1950s, Sweden sent medical assistance to the UN forces fighting the Soviet-backed North Korean military, and convicted at least two of its own citizens of spying for the Soviets. And it has long been known that Sweden provided the American CIA with intercepted Soviet signals intelligence.

Holmström’s new book doesn’t dramatically change the overall picture of Sweden’s cautious post-World War II history, but fills in some details not previously known to the general public, including claims of a formal, albeit very secret, security guarantee from the United States that would have allowed US Marines and Air Force pilots to use Swedish territory in the event of war with the Soviet Union.