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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nord Stream Pipeline Plan Stirs Up Rancor in Sweden

STOCKHOLM -- The Nord Stream pipeline plan is stirring up old animosities in Sweden.

The proposal includes a maintenance platform off the Swedish island of Gotland, a flash point for armed conflict between Russia and Sweden for 850 years.

Many Gotland residents view the platform as an outpost for Russian spies and its military, and want their government to block it. For Swedes, defeated by Russia in 1721 in a battle that brought down the curtain on the Swedish Empire and ended its control of the Baltic Sea, the Gazprom plan revives that struggle in a modern, economic context.

"It's never good to have the Russians too close," said Roland Petterson, a Gotland fisherman who has trawled the Baltic for two decades. "I'm annoyed that they can draw a line across the Baltic Sea and that Sweden doesn't do anything about most of it being in the Swedish economic zone."

Gotland has 58,000 inhabitants. It lies 90 kilometers east of mainland Sweden and about 250 kilometers northwest of Kaliningrad. The island was last taken by Russia in 1809. News media in Gotland have stoked fears of a renewed invasion, with letters and editorials demanding that the pipeline be blocked.

"We're a little David against a mighty Goliath," said Stefaan de Maecker, 30, a member of Gotland's local Green Party. "The government must say no to the project now."

While Sweden cannot stop the pipeline under international law, it may be able to block installations along the route, said Bo Huldt, a professor at the Swedish National Defense College.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said during a Jan. 12 visit to Germany that his government would respond after receiving a final proposal this year.

"It will be very important to see whether the environmental effects will be negative and if we could do something about that," he said.