STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden’s government said on Friday it had put aside up to 1.6 billion Swedish crowns ($163 million) to strengthen its military infrastructure on the strategically important island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea amid increased tensions with nearby Russia.
Sweden has been rebuilding its military over the last decade, particularly since Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”, has added urgency to Sweden’s rearmament programme and sparked a debate about whether it – and Nordic neighbour Finland – should join NATO.
The latest tranche of money will go to expand a barracks and other infrastructure on the island of Gotland, which is seen as strategically key to control of the Baltic.
“The aim is to be able to house many more conscripts and to make operations more effective, and in that way contribute to greater capacity … on Gotland,” Financial Markets Minister Max Elger told reporters.
Sweden reactivated the army’s Gotland Regiment in 2018, which had been disbanded more than a decade earlier, and has reinforced the island’s defence with ground-to-air missiles and other measures.
Gotland, Sweden’s biggest island, lies around 330 kilometres (205 miles) north of Kaliningrad, the headquarters of Russia’s Baltic Fleet.
($1 = 9.7726 Swedish crowns)
(Reporting by Simon Johnson; editing by Niklas Pollard and Gareth Jones)