Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces, Micael Byden, talks with U.S. soldiers during the exercise 'Aurora 17' at Save airfield in Goteborg, Sweden September 13, 2017. Henrik Brunnsgard/TT News Agency/via REUTERS

GOTHENBURG, Sweden (Reuters) – Neutral Sweden has launched its biggest war games in two decades with support from NATO countries, drilling 19,000 troops after years of spending cuts that have left the country fearful of Russia’s growing military strength.
On the eve of Russia’s biggest maneuvers since 2013, which NATO says will be greater than the 13,000 troops Moscow says are involved, Sweden will simulate an attack from the east on the Baltic island of Gotland, near the Swedish mainland.
“The security situation has taken a turn for the worse,” Micael Byden, the commander of the Swedish Armed Forces, said during a presentation of the three-week-long exercise.
Sweden, like the Baltics, Poland and much of the West, has been deeply troubled by Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula Crimea and its support for rebels in eastern Ukraine.
“Russia is the country that affects security in Europe …
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