Mistral and Sweden’s security

Ever since the announcement of the controversial Mistral arms deal between France and Russia on Christmas Eve 2010, the Swedish press has been publishing articles about the implications of the deal for Baltic security, and Sweden’s security in particular. On January 7 Dagens Nyheter noted that concern about the sale of the Mistral assault ships to Russia was high because these helicopter carriers can be used for landing operations – presumably in the course of a military invasion. Bo Pellnäs, a Swedish defence analyst, commented that although the carriers will be based in Murmansk, they can be moved anywhere. This, against the background of reports that Russia is to increase its military expenditure by 60 percent, and last fall held its largest military exercise in the Baltic Sea since the 1980s, is giving rise to fears in Sweden that the country’s security may  be compromised.

On January 5 a member of the Swedish parliament, Mikael Oscarsson, requested a statement from Foreign Minister Carl Bildt on what the deal means for the security of the Baltic Sea as a whole. Oscarsson also said that it was necessary to ask Russia about the purpose of the invasion capability, and that a tightening of Sweden’s defence with Poland might be needed.

Now, in an interview published in the Swedish current affairs journal Världen idag (The World Today), Oscarsson says that his concerns are heightened by the internal political situation in Russia in the aftermath of the recent unsolved murders of journalists and the sentencing of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev.

"We need greater cooperation between Sweden, Poland and the Baltics, but we should also invite Russia to talks. I’m not one of those who say that the Russians are coming, but we cannot assume that anyone else will defend us. Therefore, we need to respond and ensure that we have a fleet that works."

In Poland, Polskie Radio has taken up Mikael Oscarsson’s question, and there are reports that the military ties between Sweden and Poland may strengthen in response to Russia’s investment in the new warships.

he U.S. think tank and news agency Stratfor’s East Europe analyst Marko Papic says that just five days into the new year Mikael Oscarsson’s question to Carl Bildt shows that the geopolitical map may be redrawn.

"The area of Sweden, Poland and Russia will be crucial for European security and political issues in 2011," he said in a statement.

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