Sweden Buys Jets, Submarines as Ukraine Crisis Raises Risks

Sweden proposed measures to buy more fighter jets and submarines amid an increase in geopolitical tensions after Russia annexed parts of Ukraine.

The four-party government, trailing in the polls ahead of September elections, plans extra annual spending of 5.5 billion kronor ($833 million) by 2023, the coalition said today in Stockholm. The government has estimated defense and crisis spending of 46 billion kronor for this year.

“There’s now an increased focus to protect Sweden,” Deputy Prime Minister Jan Bjoerklund said at a press conference. “The profile of the measures are very focused on the Baltic Sea, he said. Russia ‘‘has acted ruthlessly and aggressively’’ in Ukraine and ‘‘those motives could also be used in the Baltic states,’’ he said.

The move comes amid reports showing Sweden, which isn’t a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, lacks the military capability to defend itself. The National Audit Office found earlier this month that Sweden’s armed forces don’t have enough staff or equipment. Supreme Commander Sverker Goeranson in 2012 said that the military can only defend a limited area for about a week without outside help.

The government said it will seek to add 10 more Jas 39E fighter jets, bringing the fleet to 70, buy two more submarines and refurbish other vessels. It will also push forward a plan to buy medium-range anti-aircraft artillery.

Gotland Defenses

Sweden also proposed increasing the military presence on the Swedish island of Gotland in the middle of the Baltic Sea, through measures such as exercises, flight hours and more personnel in the local national guard.

Sweden has ‘‘always had a need to keep a watchful eye” on Russia and to “follow their intentions,” Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said at the press conference.

The government said the new measures will be partly financed by cutting spending on environment and nuclear safety cooperation with Russia. Sweden will also shift around internal funds in its defense force.

The nation in March deployed fighter jets to the Baltic island of Gotland, which Sweden’s air force said followed heightened activity in the region.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is in Ukraine meeting government leaders amid signs an agreement to ease tensions there is crumbling as the U.S. and Russia blame each other. Pro-Russian forces who seized buildings in at least 10 eastern Ukrainian cities have said they aren’t bound by the deal reached by Ukraine, the European Union, the U.S. and Russia on April 17.

The U.S. has threatened further penalties against Russian interests, including measures targeting the banking and energy industries, unless progress is made in easing the crisis sparked by Russia’s annexation of Crimea last month.

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