The Swedish island of tourism that fears a Russian attack
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The Swedish island of tourism that fears a Russian attack

It is strategically placed to threaten Stockholm as well as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The Financial Times tells it in a report

Nato Baltops 22 exercises on the island of Gotland

“I understand Finland, which shares a very long border with Russia, but why Sweden? It has no border in common.” It is one of the considerations that are heard most frequently among those who are worried that the accession of the two Scandinavian countries to NATO could increase the tension between Russia and the Western states.

The answer is in the middle of the Baltic Sea: there is an island, about half the size of Corsica, which is part of the Kingdom of Sweden. It’s called Gotland and, yes, the intuitive translation “Land of the Goths” is not entirely far-fetched: this is where the Germanic people originally came who, after the fall of the Roman Empire, conquered much of the Iberian Peninsula, all of Italy and the northern balkans.

Gotland Island in the Baltic Sea

The Financial Times published a report from this island, under a title that leaves little room for doubt: “Life on the idyllic Swedish island where World War III could begin”

“On the one hand it is one of the tourist pearls of Northern Europe – explains the correspondent Richard Milne – with dozens of wonderful white beaches and the medieval citadel of Visby. But it is also, as one of the soldiers I meet, ‘an unsinkable aircraft carrier in the middle of the Baltic “. Whoever controls it is able to simultaneously threaten Sweden itself and then Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Gotland is only 130 nautical miles from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

Gotland was a heavily militarized island throughout the 20th century, then in the early 2000s Stockholm dismantled everything. Only two years ago he started sending soldiers again.

“We thought peace was eternal here,” he tells envoy Lars-Åke Permerud, a retired military officer. “Now we are a little more ready and much more suspicious. But we are not afraid” NATO membership? “If you had asked me at the end of 2021, I would have said against it, I changed my mind when Russia invaded Ukraine”. An attack on Gotland? “My nightmare is a series of Russian lightning air raids to disable the infrastructure, and then the arrival of the paratroopers.” Hans Håkansson, another former officer, imagines the sudden disembarkation of fake trading ships loaded with troops and weapons.

In recent weeks, in the days when Milne was on the island, part of the exercises of “Baltops 22” took place here, in which the member countries of NATO and the two candidates Sweden and Finland took part and which overall involved four thousand military, sixty airplanes and forty combat ships. While the tanks maneuvered in the less populated areas of the island, the traders prepared for the upcoming tourist season and the students celebrated their graduation.

The beaches of Gotland, island of Sweden