Swedish government formally tasks armed forces with preparing for presence in Latvia

  • 2024-04-25
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - The Swedish government has given the armed forces a formal task of planning and preparing for the Swedish contribution of a reduced mechanized battalion to NATO's forward land forces in Latvia, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told reporters following a meeting with Latvian Prime Minister Evika Silina (New Unity) on Thursday.

Kristersson informed that the meeting with the Latvian prime minister focused on cooperation in the Nordic and Baltic region, the European Union (EU) and NATO. Kristersson thanked Latvia for supporting Sweden's bid for a membership of NATO. The officials discussed common security problems, noting the two countries' potential for more extensive economic cooperation.

The Swedish prime minister recalled that he got actively involved in politics in the 1980s, at a time when solidarity with the "brave freedom fighters" in Latvia and other Baltic countries was an important part of Sweden's political identity. He stressed that the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Latvia and Sweden after the collapse of the Soviet Union was an important priority.

"Sweden was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic presence in the Baltic states, demonstrating our commitment to freedom on the shores of the Baltic Sea. Today we are further strengthening bilateral relations between Latvia and Sweden," said Kristersson.

He noted that the main priority of both Sweden and Latvia is to support Ukraine's fight for freedom. In view of the intensive Russian air and missile attacks on Ukrainian citizens and critical infrastructure, Kristersson said that EU member states and NATO allies should explore all available options to provide Ukraine with more ammunition and air defense equipment. He also mentioned the approved US aid package for Ukraine, which is a welcome demonstration of US commitment to Ukraine. He stressed that Ukraine's security is also the security of the EU and the US.

The Swedish prime minister said that the Baltic Sea region is affected by Russia's hybrid warfare, including cyberattacks, disinformation, forced migration and attacks on critical infrastructure. He underlined that both Latvia and Sweden take these threats seriously.

Kristersson indicated that representatives of Latvia and Sweden are taking part in the Locked Shield cyber defense exercise in Tallinn, Estonia. The Swedish prime minister said that for almost two years Sweden has worked closely with NATO to ensure the military integration of the Swedish military into the Alliance. He stressed that a joint declaration on military integration between Sweden and NATO will be signed on Thursday, thus formally concluding the integration.

"Sweden is ready to assume its responsibility for collective deterrence and defense. A few months ago, I announced that Sweden was considering sending a reduced battalion to Latvia... We are ready to contribute to NATO's air defense and European air defense," said Kristersson.

"The government this morning gave Sweden's armed forces the formal task of planning and preparing for the Swedish contribution of a reduced mechanized battalion to NATO's forward land forces in Latvia," Kristersson told at the news conference. The first mechanized units are expected to arrive in Latvia early next year. The Swedish mechanized battalion will also include CV90 combat vehicles and Leopard 2 tanks.

"People like the idea of being part of a mission in Latvia. There is a lot of interest in Sweden and a clear motivation to participate and contribute. Together with our Latvian friends and colleagues, we are making the Nordic and Baltic region and the whole of NATO much safer," stressed Kristersson.

The Latvian prime minister said at the news conference that Russia's aggression against Ukraine in 2022 substantially changed the security situation in Europe. She said that Latvia appreciates Sweden's readiness to contribute to collective deterrence and defense. The security of the Baltic Sea has now become much more important than previously, Silina said.

"We appreciate Sweden's decision to contribute its troops to NATO's battle group as part of the Allied forces. We are honored and ready to welcome them. We are working together for common security. We look forward to working closely with Sweden in preparation for our participation in the upcoming NATO Summit in Washington in July. Latvia has four priorities - strengthening deterrence and defense, implementing regional defense plans, supporting the development of the military industry, and containing Russia," the Latvian prime minister said.

She stressed that Latvia was interested in attracting more Swedish investment, especially in port industry projects, renewable energy, digital and military industries. Silina added that Russia is not giving up its imperialist ambitions, so it is increasingly important to jointly develop military capabilities and industry.