“We can see more of the exercises in the Baltics, more of intelligence activities in the Baltic Sea and we also use our quick reaction alert units more than we have done for many many years. So it has a real impact on the Swedish defence in the daily life. This is something also that is noticed by the Swedish people,” he told journalists in Lithuania.
“The main topic is to increase military capability in Sweden and also deepen military cooperation with neighbours,” the Swedish minister added.
In his words, the Swedish government approves of “deepening cooperation inside the NATO partnership” but “in the governmental platform we have very clearly said that we are not planning any membership in NATO.”
Sweden also ready to step up defence cooperation with the Baltic states and exchange intelligence information, Hultqvist said.
Last month, Sweden launched the largest operation since the Cold War in searching for a foreign submarine in its waters. Swedish military officially did not accuse any specific country but the majority of Swedish defense analysts believe it was a Russian submarine.
Speaking about the incident in Vilnius, the Swedish minister said he had no verification on the involvement of a specific country but underlined that Stockholm is ready to use military force to defend its territory.
“We have no verification but the signal from our side is that we are ready to use military force to protect our territory, and this is a very clear signal,” Hultqvist said.
A public survey carried out in Sweden soon after the submarine incident showed a sudden rise in supporters of the country’s NATO membership. The Novus survey for the TV4 channel revealed that 37 percent of Swedes were in favour of Sweden’s membership in the Alliance, and 36 percent were against.