Sweden's Gotland at crossroads of history as NATO decision looms

# 10 May 2022 19:55 (UTC +04:00)

The crack of gunshots splits the silence in a sleepy forest as Camilla Selander, a deli-counter worker, squeezes off shots from her Glock 9 millimetre pistol during target practice with Sweden's Home Guard on the island of Gotland, APA reports citing Reuters.

The 34-year-old is one of the volunteers practising at a military firing range on the island, likely to be on the front line of any future confrontation between Russia and Sweden.

The island lies just 300 km (186 miles) from the home of Russia's Baltic Fleet in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland.

"People are a bit worried, but we're trying to keep everybody calm, so that we talk about what is happening but nevertheless tell each other that it's going to be fine," Selander told Reuters in a break during shooting in the forest of Visborgsslatt.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has forced Sweden and neighbouring Finland to rethink security policy and whether they can remain safe outside NATO, unprotected by its promise that an attack on any member will be seen as an attack on all.

Both countries are expected to decide whether to apply for membership in the 30-nation alliance in May.

Gotland, briefly occupied by Russian troops in 1808 during a war that saw Finland for a century fall under the sway of the Tsar, is seen as important to the defence of Sweden and NATO's vulnerable Baltic members Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.