Inside the Swedish military presence on Gotland, the most strategic island for defense against Russian aggression

Earlier this year, it was announced that in May-June 2018, the MSB (Ministry for Society Protection and Preparedness) in Sweden would send out a brochure titled “If Crisis or War Comes” to all of Sweden’s 4.7 million homes. The last time this sort of brochure was printed and distributed was during World War II, in 1943.

The leaflet drop was part of a recent effort by the authorities to revamp their defenses as Russian aggression has increased, starting with the invasion of Crimea in 2014.

Sweden, which is not a NATO member, decided to reintroduce a permanent military presence on Gotland in 2016. The strategically important island, due to its eastern position in the Baltic Sea, would be a key target for Moscow should a conflict break out between Russia and NATO.

Last March, conscription was reintroduced, with 4,000 young people selected for military service each year starting in 2018. Last September, Sweden arranged “Aurora,” the largest military exercise in 23 years, with more than 20,000 troops from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Lithuania, Norway and the United States. At the same time, Russia conducted its own annual military exercise, with an official count of 13,000 troops.

Sweden has a long history of wars with Russia, but has not been this concerned about a potential threat since the Cold War. My ongoing project investigates historical facts dating back to when Sweden was still a great power, to the Winter War and to the more recent Cold War. It’s a balance between history and current events based on individuals’ thoughts, theories and fears in society today.

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