Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 15 November 2019

Swedish navy to move to Cold War lair amid shifting North Atlantic threats

One official said the underground base is the largest of its kind

The government of Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has committed to increased military spending. AP
The government of Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has committed to increased military spending. AP

The Swedish navy is to shift its headquarters to a vast underground base, not used for 15 years, prompted by rising military activity around its borders and fears of the expansionist threat from Russia.

The navy largely left the secretive Musko facility, built during the Cold War amid heightened nuclear tensions, in 2004 because Sweden wanted to reduce its military spending and potential threats were thought to be decreasing. Musko took 19 years to build and was opened in 1969.

"It is probably the world's largest underground base. We have unique resources here that we can develop in various ways,” said Swedish defence minister Peter Hultqvist.

Initially 100 navy officials are expected to be move to Musko.

Rebecca Landberg, the Swedish navy's spokesperson, said the reorganisation would make the armed forces "more effective and robust".

In the last year, Sweden has signalled that it is prepared to spend more on the military with the government pledging to increase its defence budget to 1.5 per cent of GDP by 2025.

The base was never closed. The Navy’s Maritime Information Company remained and a shipyard run by the defence and security company Saab was also in operation.

But the move transfers the navy’s headquarters from Stockholm, where the Swedish army will remain but its scope of responsibility is set to decrease, local media reported.

It is said to be home to a series of long tunnels and medical facilities, and can shelter warships, The Guardian reported. The base possesses capabilities which means it is best placed to withstand a possible attack from Russia, whose actions in the Baltic Sea have caused regional concern.

During the Cold War there were a number of alleged incursions by Russian submarines into Swedish waters.

In October 2014, Sweden’s armed forces were on high alert after a Russian vessel was said to have entered Swedish territory, leading to a manhunt lasting over a week.

“One problem is that the Russian ability increases faster both in terms of the pace of Russian defence reform and in numerical terms,” said analyst Niklas Wiklund in a leader article for Blekinge Lans Tidning.

Updated: October 1, 2019 07:14 PM

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