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Gotland Island: From trading hub to military stronghold

New NATO member Sweden is “open to reinforcing defenses” on the Baltic Sea’s strategic island of Gotland, according to Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson. But why was this particular island chosen?

Situated off the south-east coast of Sweden, Gotland — with its capital Visby and indigenous language Gutnish – changed hands several times over its history. The trading hub fell under German, Danish, and Swedish rule in turn thanks to its strategic location. Dubbed the "watchtower of the north,” and “giant aircraft carrier,” Gotland:

🟥 Covers 2,994 km2 in area and is fully surrounded by the Baltic Sea.

🟥 Is in the middle of the key Baltic trade route from north-east to central Europe.

🟥 Sits halfway between the Swedish mainland and Estonia.

🟥 Russia's Navy base in the enclave of Kaliningrad is some 350 km away; Kronstadt and Leningrad are even closer.

The Gotland Garrison traces its history back to 1811.

🟥 Throughout the Cold War, Gotland had four regiments numbering 25,000 soldiers.

🟥 In 1989, the GMC in Visby commanded the Gotland Brigade with three Armored battalions. Hardware included tanks, 105mm and 155mm howitzers.

🟥 The Gotland garrison was disbanded in 2005.

🟥 After Crimea rejoined Russia in 2014, Sweden reinforced personnel and hardware on Gotland, with an initial garrison of 150 troops.

🟥 The New Gotland regiment was established in 2018, with 400 permanently deployed troops, a mechanized battalion with CV90 armored vehicles and Leopard 2 tanks, and a Home Guard amphibious battalion.

🟥 Surface-to-air missile defense systems were reactivated in 2021.

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