“We respect the integrity of Sweden, and we have no plans whatsoever to invade Sweden, so the Swedish population can sleep easy,” Tatarintsev said, according to a translation from the Local, a Swedish news group.
During the past few years, Swedes have become increasingly concerned about Moscow's behavior. The country was spooked by indications that unknown submarines had entered Swedish waters — eerily similar to the Soviet tactics of yesteryear. Russian jets have also entered Swedish airspace during Baltic training exercises, sparking complaints from Stockholm.
Last year, Sweden announced that it would increase military spending in response to what it saw as a more aggressive Russia, reversing years of budget cuts in the Scandinavian nation. There is also growing support for membership or at least more cooperation with NATO. The country also recently placed a permanent troop deployment on the Swedish island of Gotland, which is 155 miles from Kaliningrad, Russia's European enclave.
A report published by a number of military experts in September cast doubt upon Sweden's ability to protect the island, however, suggesting that Russian forces could capture Gotland in just a few hours. There are also widespread concerns about a plan to rent the Slite port on Gotland and the Karlshamn port on mainland Sweden to the Russian-backed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.
Tatarintsev's comments may have been designed to calm nerves, but they may not have been as reassuring as he hoped.
In the same interview, the Russian ambassador suggested that Russia had not occupied the Ukrainian peninsula Crimea because Crimea was always a part of Russia. And in an apparent slip of the tongue, Tatarintsev told Swedes that it was “ludicrous to have any doubts that Russia has special military plans to attack Sweden, Gotland, Karlshamn, Slite.”