Sweden’s security service SAPO said in its annual report that Russia posed the biggest threat to the country. SAPO chief analyst Wilhelm Unge said that Moscow was conducting “extensive espionage operations” in Sweden, using its diplomatic staff as spies. Unge said as many as one-third of Russia’s total diplomatic staff in Sweden were involved in clandestine intelligence gathering.
SAPO stopped Russia’s multiple attempts to steal weapon secrets
Stockholm fears possible Russian military operations after increased espionage activity since the Ukraine crisis last year. Sweden along with many other Baltic states has witnessed a significant increase in Russian naval activity since last year. Unge said Russia’s espionage in Sweden included hacking, trying to recruit agents, and trying to steal advanced weapon technology.
He said SAPO has stopped several attempts by Russian agents to obtain Swedish military technology. The security police chief added that the Russian spies were “highly educated and often younger than during the Soviet era. They are driven, goal-oriented and socially competent.” Under the diplomatic cover, they collect information on Swedish politics, defense, economy and political refugees.
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Relations between Russia and the West have touched a new low amid the Ukraine crisis. Sweden is not a NATO member, but as a member of the European Union, it has participated in sanctions against Russia. In November last year, Sweden claimed that a Russian submarine had been operating in Swedish waters. It sparked Sweden’s largest military mobilization since the Cold War.
Sweden boosts its military spending
In September 2014, two SU-24 bombers entered Swedish airspace in the “most serious air incursion by the Russians” in more than a decade. Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist is increasing the country’s naval fleet. Sweden has increased its defense spending and plans to improve military cooperation with Finland.
The report also identified as a major security risk of Swedish people traveling to the Middle-East to fight with the ISIS and other militant groups, and returning home radicalized. SAPO estimates more than 150 Swedish citizens have fled to join terror groups, and at least 50 have returned home.