The USS Mount Whitney, the flagship of the US Sixth Fleet, has anchored outside Skeppsholmen in Stockholm after participating in the giant naval NATO exercise BALTOPS 2016. During the US-led exercise, the 17 nations, including Sweden, practiced coordinated military maneuvering. The multinational forces included 45 warships, 60 aircraft and helicopters as well as 6,000 troops. Sweden contributed with marines, six Gripen aircraft, a submarine and a corvette. It also provided the maneuvers with a jumping-off ground in Stockholm archipelago.

Commander Carlos Sardiello ensured Swedish Radio that it was purely a courtesy call, and praised the Swedish contribution to the exercise as “very professional.”

“We are here for a few days to visit your beautiful capital in this beautiful weather,” Sardiello sai,d pointing at Stockholm’s Old Town, visible in the background.

​Despite Sardiello’s assurances that the goal of the exercise was to guarantee the Baltic region’s peace and stability, Sweden’s relationship with NATO remains a politically sensitive topic.

About a month ago, the Swedish parliament adopted the so-called Host Country Agreement, which makes it easier for neutral Sweden to give and receive NATO support in the event of a crisis in Sweden or in its immediate vicinity. In Sweden, the agreement stirred major controversy, as many view it as yet…

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