July 25 (UPI) -- The Swedish military has released a statement announcing plans to hold its largest joint military exercise in years with NATO members this September.
The exercise will be labeled Aurora 17 and will involve land, air, and sea elements of the Swedish military and participating NATO members.
It will count over 19,000 Swedish personnel and 40 government agencies, 1,435 troops from the U.S. and smaller contingents from France, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Lithuania and Estonia.
"Through frequent and extensive training and exercise, especially with other defense forces, Sweden is strengthening its deterrence effect and makes it more credible," the statement said.
There has been internal debate in Sweden and Finland concerning the possibility of joining NATO, and both have played higher profile roles in NATO summits. Russia's increasing military assertiveness since its annexation of Crimea and backing of separatist rebels in Ukraine has raised concerns in neighboring countries and NATO.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia would see Sweden joining NATO as a serious encroachment and would demand a military response.
Aurora 17 will mark another in a string of increasingly large and elaborate military exercises taking place in the Baltics and eastern Europe.