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Sweden to join NATO strategic comms centre: director

RIGA (AFP) – 

Non-aligned Sweden will join NATO’s Strategic Communications Centre based in nearby Latvia amid heightened tensions with Russia in the Baltic Sea region, the centre said Friday.

“Joining NATO’s STRATCOM Centre of Excellence as a contributing partner is a natural step for Sweden,” Janis Sarts, director of the Riga-based unit told AFP.

Earlier this month, Sweden announced it was remilitarising its biggest island, Gotland, amid speculation over the country’s ability to defend itself against a more assertive Russia.

Sweden is not a NATO member but is part of the alliance’s Partnership for Peace programme launched in 1994 to develop military cooperation with non-member countries.

Sarts added that non-aligned Baltic neighbour Finland has already joined the STRATCOM centre, opened in 2015 amid fears the Kremlin was influencing Latvia’s large ethnic Russian minority over the Ukraine crisis.

As well as providing an alternative to the official Russian narrative on Ukraine, the centre develops “the coordinated and appropriate use of NATO communications activities and capabilities in support of Alliance policies, operations and activities,” according to its website.

Aside from Latvia, the centre currently has six other NATO members — Britain, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Lithuania and Poland.

France and The Netherlands have also expressed an interest in joining.

Anke Schmidt-Felzmann, a researcher at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, told AFP that Stockholm would send expert Mikael Tofvesson of the Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) to the centre in Riga.

“Sweden has a lot to contribute to STRATCOM from past experiences and current monitoring of information flows directed against Sweden,” Schmidt-Felzmann said.

© 2016 AFP

Article source: http://www.france24.com/en/20160930-sweden-join-nato-strategic-comms-centre-director