No Swedish response

Russians practiced attack on Sweden

The Swedish Air Force reportedly failed to monitor exercises ostensibly aimed at Swedish targets, because no planes or pilots were available.

The newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reports that during Easter weekend the Russian Air Force held maneuvers in the Baltic just outside Sweden’s territorial boundary. Held off the island Gotska Sandön, military sources tell the newspaper that the fictitious targets of the exercise were two of Sweden’s most important military bases.

Russia had informed Sweden ahead of time about the maneuvers. At least two Swedish Gripen fighters should have been in the air to identify foreign aircraft, but Svenska Dagbladet reports, there were none available at the time. Instead, NATO sent two Danish fighters stationed in Lithuania, which arrived too late to monitor the exercise.

Taking part in the maneuvers, 30-40 kilometers outside Swedish territorial borders, were four Russian fighters and two heavy bombers, capable of carrying cruise missiles and nuclear weapons.

There have been widely varying responses from security experts within the Swedish center-right government. Allan Widman, the Liberal Party’s defence spokesperson, tells the TT news agency the incident was very serious, especially the fact that Russia considers such a scenario as an attack on Sweden realistic. His party colleague, MEP Cecilia Wikström, says it shows that Sweden should join NATO.

But conservative Moderate Foreign Minister Carl Bildt doesn’t see the situation as particularly serious. Speaking to reporters on his arrival at an EU meeting in Luxembourg, Bildt said “We don’t respond to everything, we can’t be in the air all the time. The air force is in the air when there is particular reason to do so.”

The Green Party’s Peter Rådberg, a member of parliament’s Defence Committee, dismisses any risks for Sweden. "There is no threat to Sweden," he says. "Russia isn’t capable of attacking Sweden, and if they did it would devastating for them."

He says all of Sweden’s political parties are in agreement here.

Two heavy Russian bombers and four fighters took part in the maneuvers, 30-40 kilometers outside Swedish territorial borders.