And If Things Heat Up as Early as Tomorrow?

This plain speaking rang like a gong stroke over the murmuring at a cocktail party. Ladies and gentlemen, the truth is served!

A defence debate, that has long found it difficult to break through the general noise, suddenly awoke an interest on a much broader front, and the attention became even more acute when it became known that Russian planes practiced an attack against Sweden without the Swedish Air Force even leaving the ground. That the politicians got angry – not because preparedness was inadequate, but because this became known – did not help.

In mid-January 2014 came the receipt. The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency presented its latest survey of public opinion on defence and security issues. It showed that confidence has collapsed in Swedish defence policy. Only 26 percent of respondents have very high or fairly high confidence, while exactly twice as many have very bad or fairly bad confidence. Not only are the numbers bad in themselves, but they also demonstrate a substantial weakening. As recently as two years earlier, there was slight preponderance of those who had confidence. That was before people knew.

It is still not certain that people have fully understood what the supreme commander admitted in that interview. There, he described not the state as at New Year 2012/13, but the situation when the new defence organisation, IO14, is in place. Judging by the name, it should be this year, and that was also the idea at the time of the decision, but everything indicates that it will take about 10 more years, if at all. According to the National Audit Office’s recent review, The Armed Forces’ Ability to Sustain Efforts (RIR 2013:22), it is indeed possible that arrangements will be in place, but they will not satisfy the standards that the government and parliament stipulated.

If the current policy remains in place, we will then, perhaps, far into the future, have a defence that can accomplish a task that is less than equal to defending us in one place for a week.

Where this place is, in the worst-case scenario, is written in the stars. But Stockholm, where national leadership is, is the highest priority, as the supreme commander said to SvenskaDagbladet’s Mikael Holmström (11 January, 2014). “Aha”, say the spiteful, “so this is why our planes are in Luleå and Ronneby, our navy in Karlskrona, our artillery in Boden and our air defence in Halmstad!?”

But that’s simply not true. That these connections remain is because the defence of the capital, or even Sweden as a whole, was not prioritised especially loudly when these decisions were made. Then, the line was ”the defence of Sweden starts in Afghanistan”, and this, along with national defence capability, felt old and passé. Since then, the situation has had time to reverse, especially after the impact of the war in Georgia in 2008, but the Swedish non-ability is still often described as a non-problem, since there is no acute threat to Sweden. We need not be so concerned about just having a half-finished one-week defence, it is said, we will not need to use it anyway; at least not here at home.

Anyone who has kindly swallowed those calming pills would do well to take a moment to read Johan Wiktorin’s The Corridor to Kaliningrad (Royal Academy of War Sciences, 2013). It’s not a huge volume that intelligence expert Wiktorin has written (it is limited to 88 pages), but it is adequate to kick-start the thought process.

Wiktorin uses fiction to paint a scenario where things heat up on the other side of the Baltic Sea: Russia leans heavily against Lithuania, the situation escalates, the United States is allowed to operate flights from Swedish bases, Gotland is undefended and ultimately Sweden is forced to accept humiliating concessions. This is not necessarily a probable scenario, but our credibility is at stake. Something like this could happen, not sometime in the distant future, but tomorrow.

No, at the time of writing, there is no immediate threat of a large invasion. But a large invasion is not the only conceivable threat, and it is reveries that, as in the current security policy, assume foreign help will materialise at the place and under the conditions we desire if the situation becomes acute. Sweden will never be a military superpower, but we need a security policy worthy of the name, and a significantly better ability to maintain our integrity. There must be an end to the nonchalance that has so long characterised defence policy.

PJ Anders Linder

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