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Swedish Military Cites Russian Expansionism In Bid To Boost Spending

Swedish soldiers patrol outside Visby on the Baltic island of Gotland.

Sweden's military has cited an increasingly assertive Russia in a request to parliament for a major increase in the Nordic country's defense spending.

The armed forces said in a report to lawmakers on February 23 that Sweden needs to more than double its annual military spending to 115 billion Swedish crowns ($14 billion) by 2035 from about 50 billion crowns currently.

Military leaders also called for doubling the number of active personnel to about 120,000.

The report cited Moscow's planned increase in military spending and aggressive foreign policy as reasons to boost Sweden's defense outlays.

"Russia has, through its action in Georgia in 2008, as well as in the Crimea and in east Ukraine in 2014, showed that it does not hesitate to use military force to achieve its political goals," the report said.

Russia seized Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and has backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in a war that has killed more than 10,300 people since April 2014.

Russia fought Georgia in a brief war in 2008, and Moscow has backed separatists in breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Sweden is not a NATO member but has participated in military drills with member states. Some in the country have raised the issue of Sweden joining the alliance, a move that would be certain to anger Moscow.

The report by the military comes a day after the Swedish Security Service warned of potential meddling by Moscow in the September general elections and said that "Russian espionage constitutes the greatest security threat" against the country.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP