Despite a history of neutrality, Sweden has grown increasingly concerned about Russian expansion in recent years, prompting a growing relationship with NATO, and now, a large-scale military training exercise coinciding with Russia’s massive Zapad 2017 drills in Belarus.

An estimated 19,000 troops will participate in Sweden’s drills that will simulate an attack from the East on the Baltic island of Gotland, not far off the Swedish mainland.  Sweden is located due West of the Baltics, which are the focus of concern for NATO, as Russia and Belarus conduct drills that would approximate war in the region.  Russia has claimed that there will be fewer than 13,000 troops participating in the Zapad drills, which commenced on Thursday, but NATO officials believe the accurate number will be closer to a massive 100,000.

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. “Russia is the country that affects security in Europe right now with its actions – the annexation of the Crimea and continued battles in eastern Ukraine – so it is clear that we are watching very closely what Russia is doing.”

Although Sweden has expressed no interest in joining military alliances such as NATO, a mainliner from the alliance, the United States, will see over 1,000 troops participating in these drills, which promise to be the largest show of military force in Sweden in over twenty years. Around 500 more troops hailing from France, Norway and other NATO allies are also expected to take part in the drills as well, though, that participation is likely not a sign of Sweden changing its mind about entering into NATO.