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Sweden bolsters military over 'Russian rearmament'
by Staff Writers
Stockholm (AFP) Dec 11, 2014


Poland sees 'unprecedented' Russian military activity in Baltic
Warsaw (AFP) Dec 11, 2014 - Poland's defence minister said Thursday he was concerned by the extent of Russia's recent military activity over the Baltic sea.

Russian actions in Ukraine have produced the worst east-west tensions since the end of the Cold War, and left neighbouring Poland and the three Baltic states anxious over the Kremlin's territorial ambitions.

On Monday, Dutch F-16 fighters intercepted two Russian bombers over the Baltic Sea as part of their participation in NATO's Baltic air policing mission.

All told, more than 30 Russian aircraft were intercepted in international airspace "over the Baltic Sea and off the coast of Norway" on Monday, a NATO spokesman said.

"For a few days now, there has been unprecedented Russian activity, from its Baltic fleet to flights over the Baltic sea," Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak told Polish broadcaster TVN24.

"We're concerned by this. NATO is working on preparing some kind of response."

Poland and the Baltics -- Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania -- have been on edge since Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine and offered support for rebels battling government forces in eastern Ukraine.

NATO has deployed more aircraft, ships and personnel in a bid to reassure the four countries, all new members formerly dominated by Moscow.

There have been around 400 intercepts of Russian military flights near NATO member countries this year, the Western defence alliance said last month.

Lithuania put its military on higher alert on Monday after 22 Russian warships were spotted in the Baltic Sea.

Sweden brought back the option Thursday of using reservists to boost its military force, citing "Russian rearmament" as one of the reasons for the decision.

"We see how the world around us has changed in a negative way: partly the Russian rearmament, partly Russia's annexation of Crimea and the armed conflict in Ukraine," Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist told public broadcaster SVT.

The government decision reversed a 2010 vote by parliament that ended compulsory military service and suspended the possibility of calling up former conscripts and volunteers for compulsory re-training.

Now the Swedish armed forces can oblige 7,500 Swedes -- who received military training between 2004 and 2011 -- to participate in training exercises from the end of 2015, Hultqvist told SVT.

"With this decision the armed forces can carry out exercises with fully-manned military units, which will mean an increase in operational capacity," the defence minister said in a statement.

The decision does not require a new parliamentary vote and will apply for ten years.

Sweden, which has a long tradition of neutrality and remains outside NATO, has had an intense security debate in recent years, after a decade of military cutbacks and an uptick in Russian airforce activity near its Baltic Sea airspace.

Since the end of military service in 2010 the Swedish armed forces have struggled to attract new recruits.

When Russia staged a simulated bomber attack on the capital Stockholm in early 2013, the country's airforce failed to respond, prompting the chief of the armed forces to say the country lacked the ability to defend itself for more than a week.

A week-long hunt for a suspected Russian submarine in October led to an increased committment to the country's military from the Social Democrat-led government which took power in September.

"We will defend our territorial integrity with all available means," Prime Minister Stefan Loefven said, issuing a stark warning against any future incursions.

Dutch sell armored vehicles to Estonia
The Hague, Netherlands (UPI) Dec 11, 2014 - The Netherlands has sold Estonia nearly four dozen CV90 armored infantry fighting vehicles it is retiring because of military downsizing.

The deal for 44 of the vehicles, made by BAE Systems Hagglunds AB in Sweden, is worth more than $123.9 million and was finalized earlier this week.

The contract also includes two bridge-layer vehicles, two recovery and two combat engineer tank variants of the Leopard 1 tank.

Training, documentation, tools and spare parts are also part of the agreement.

"The infantry combat vehicles will take Estonia's fighting power to a new level," said Estonian Minister of Defense Sven Mikser. "It is one of the three main priorities of the national defense development plan alongside self-propelled artillery and the recently completed procurement of the Javelin anti-tank missile systems."

The CV90 first entered service in 1993 with Sweden and can carry eight soldiers in addition to its crew.

Delivery of the vehicles will begin in 2016 and be completed in 2018.

The two governments said Dutch military personnel will train Estonian Defense Forces on use of the vehicles starting next year.

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