Minister: Strong Sweden military boost to Baltic Sea region deterrence

Kalle Laanet and Peter Hultqvist on the Swedish island of Gotland, March 24 2022.
Kalle Laanet and Peter Hultqvist on the Swedish island of Gotland, March 24 2022. Source: Ministry of Defense

Sweden and Estonia are of one mind on the importance of strengthened defense and deterrence in the Baltic Sea region, defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) says.

Speaking after a meeting with his Swedish counterpart Peter Hultqvist Thursday, Laanet said: "A large degree of overlap exists between Sweden and Estonia in terms of their perceptions of security risks, especially in the Baltic Sea region and the current aggression in Ukraine. The need for credible deterrence in the Baltic Sea region is now as clear as day to everyone."

The meeting took place on the Swedish island of Gotland (Estonian: Ojamaa), which straddles the central Baltic and lies around 150km southwest of Saaremaa, with which it is comparable in size.

Gotland is of such strategic importance that Sweden had already started beefing up its defenses there prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Sweden is not a NATO member.

Laanet noted that: "Sweden is taking the changed security situation extremely seriously, for example, by increasing the share of defense spending in the national budget and thereby strengthening its defense capabilities."

"A stronger Sweden also means a stronger Estonia – Sweden's increased defense capabilities will raise the level of deterrence in the Baltic Sea and thus improve Estonia's security," Laanet added, according to a ministry press release.

Kalle Laanet and Peter Hultqvist visiting the Swedish Army P18 regiment on Gotland. Source: Ministry of Defense

The Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine, in its 28th day as of Thursday, was also at the top of the agenda at the meeting. "Helping Ukraine with arms and humanitarian aid, as well as trade embargoes and sanctions, is the most important thing internationally right now to help Ukraine in its fight against Putin's aggression," Laanet said.

"Estonia has already provided military and humanitarian aid worth €222 million, the lion's share of which is lethal military aid," he added.

Defense budgets and capabilities and developments in the EU and NATO were also on the table at Thursday's meeting.

The ministers also visited the Gotland regiment P18 (see photo) and laid a wreath at the memorial stone to boat refugees, including those who had fled Estonia following the start of the Soviet occupation, in the town of Slite, in Gotland's east coast.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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