– It is a problem for us that the Armed Forces does not provide good enough information about what they are doing, says 74-year-old Margareta Iveby. She and her husband Åke have a house 75 meters from Tofta beach, where it is expected that any Russian landing craft will be maneuvered ashore.
– This is at least where the Swedish Navy conducts exercises, drives landing craft up on the beach and simulates an attack, says Åke Iveby (74). The retired policeman says they are calm and think it will take a lot for Russian forces to try to take over Gotland.
– But the world situation is such that you have to make all reservations. That is why we warmly welcome the Swedish soldiers who are now stationed here on Gotland. Russian President Vladimir Putin provokes us when he sends landing craft so close to Gotland in the Baltic Sea, says Åke.
If it is not a direct fear and apprehension of a Russian attack on Gotland that characterizes those we talk to, we still sense a kind of insecurity. More with ordinary residents than with the local authorities.
Sleeps safely at night
– We who govern Gotland County work closely with the Armed Forces. There is a large meeting activity between local and Swedish authorities. Everyone is drilled in the routines, and everyone knows what to do during any event that may come. But I can promise both the population on Gotland and you in VG that here we can all sleep safely at night, says deputy county chief on Gotland, Anneli Bergholm Søder, before she hurries off to reach the plane for an important meeting in Stockholm.
She will not say what will be discussed at the meeting, but it does not give weird odds if we guess that the security situation on Gotland and details around it, will be a main topic.
Have enough weapons
A little beyond the house of the Iveby couple is a bunker from World War II, a reminder that people on Gotland have always been prepared for unauthorized people to enter the island from the Baltic Sea.
68-year-old Pelle Sæv walks daily along Tofta beach and he says he is better prepared than most if there should be a military attack on Gotland from the east.
He and a group of friends from the Home Guard and the hunting club support the Armed Forces’ deployment of several soldiers, but feared that their opposition to a great power’s military superiority was not enough.
– We have plenty of weapons, and should the Russians knock on the door, we know to be able to defend the family, neighbors and people we love. I can promise you that this is serious, we do not want to sit still and watch someone take from us Gotland. It will never happen, says the rosy guy. The house he is not far from the barracks where the Swedish soldiers are housed.
A lot happens at the same time
An officer in the Swedish defense, who does not want to be quoted by name, tells VG that what happens on Gotland obviously has to do with what happens between Russia, Ukraine and NATO.
– The special thing about what’s happening now, compared to previous threats against Gotland, is that there is so much going on at the same time. The six Russian landing moorings that docked in the waters around Gotland a week ago have now settled further south, off the Norwegian coast. The officer does not answer in the negative that there is a real fear in the Swedish Armed Forces that something might happen.
From another team, VG is informed that what is called an exercise is something completely different. “They do not practice, they prepare. In this case, this is something completely different “, says the source.
Researcher and war historian Oscar Jonsson tells VG that he understands that it can be a kind of unrest among the population on Gotland.
– But the fact is that it is unusual what happens, but not serious. It is right for the Swedish Armed Forces to adapt to the situation, and they are handling it just right. The increased tension in Europe has led to unrest in the Baltic Sea, says Jonsson.
Gotland next step
– If one imagines that Russia wants to control the Baltic Sea to an even greater degree than they already do, then Gotland is the next step in an offensive. With Gotland as a base, Russia would become completely dominant, says Jan Hallenberg, researcher at the Foreign Policy Institute in Stockholm to Dagens Nyheter.
He emphasizes that a Russian invasion is very unlikely, but in a situation where President Putin considers it foreign policy important, Russia may occupy the island and deploy air defense, artillery, soldiers, vessels and air force.
– A Gotland under Russian occupation would seriously weaken NATO’s attempts to stand up to Russia, Jan Hallenberg believes.
In the modern center of the beautiful medieval town of Visby, the capital of Gotland, we meet a young family who recently moved home after living in Stockholm for 12 years.
– Of course we feel a certain unrest, but we both grew up here and with our small children we can still have a good life here. The security policy situation is a bit special right now, we we are not afraid, says Anton Lange (33). His wife Emilie (33) nods in agreement.
– But we both miss better information from the Armed Forces about what is really going on and what the difference is from previously tense situations, says Emilie Lange.
– But should something serious happen on Gotland with its strategic location, would be bad, but we are pretty sure that this will pass, says Anton and lifts up little Olivia (5) before rolling on Love (2).