Mutual Culpability is the Only Bright Side

Only 26 percent of respondents said they had ‘very’ or ‘fairly good’ confidence in the defence policy, which was a sharp drop from 35 percent the year before and 40 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, the percentage that had ‘poor’ confidence increased to 52 percent. In a couple of years, the attitude had gone from reasonably accepting to a deep scepticism. Those who distrusted defence policy were suddenly twice as many as those who trusted.

The survey was carried out in autumn 2013, i.e., after the Supreme Commander’s notice of Sweden’s “one-week defence” and after the ‘Russian Easter’, when the Swedish jets remained on the ground while Russian planes practised attacking Sweden. This had hardly helped to keep the confidence up. On the other hand, last autumn we had not yet experienced the embarrassing tactics game around the Defence Advisory Council’s proposal and alliance parties’ election promises, or indeed the submarine search in the Stockholm archipelago – not to mention the Russian conquest of the Crimea and the rest of the violence against Ukraine.

It will be extremely interesting to study these ‘opinions’ again, when the new release comes out, just in time for the People and Defence annual conference in Salen in January next year. If the already miserable confidence has not been eroded further, it may just be that the Swedish people have been arrested by complete cynicism and just laugh despairingly at the wretchedness. Then the left and bourgeois parties will squabble over who should shoulder the greatest burden of blame. The former has taken over responsibility and stands (MP) for a completely unrealistic position; the latter has shaped the weak policy that now applies.

Some citizens with good memories will recall how Mr Tolgfors summarised the last defence preparation analysis when parliament debated defence in 2009: ”We cannot see a military threat that affects only one country in the region.” The wording was startling enough, only a year after the war in Georgia, but it’s even more clueless today in light of what has actually happened in the Ukraine – a country in the region.

No one could have known that the assault against Ukraine would happen. In contrast, it was possible with a realistic assessment to have assumed that such a thing could happen.

Similarly, one should now assume that it has not occurred for the last time that countries or other powerful forces in our region choose violence as a means to achieve their goals – and that it could be Sweden coming into the line of fire. That we have lived in peace for a long time does not guarantee that peaceful conditions will continue, and we do not improve our security by impoverishing our ability to assert our territorial integrity. The erosion of our defence now rather contributes to uncertainty than stability in our part of the world.

”Sweden will not stand passively by if a neighbouring country is threatened,” said Sten Tolgfors in that parliamentary debate in 2009, and Stefan Löfven gave the same answer in his declaration. Sweden intends to help others, and we assume that others will help us – this is now the basis of our defence policy.

But if I were the minister in charge of a neighbouring country, I would be forced to ask myself the question: what will they help us with? How will they be able to come to our rescue when they do not have the strength to defend themselves? Their army consists of a few measly battalions, the Baltic’s longest coastline they think to protect with seven corvettes and, even though the air support is in a little better condition, it has shrunk to a fraction of what it was twenty years ago. To bank on them helping us is to build on sand.

The defence against external threats is the most basic function of a state, and it is extremely serious that citizens’ confidence in defence policy has already dropped so much and, in all probability, is about to erode even more. It puts confidence in the entire social contract at stake. But even confidence in the world around us is badly wounded.

There is one bright side. No serious – if that is now the word – party is free from blame for the situation in which we find ourselves. No one can stand and point fingers at the others to shape up – they must all shape up. The dream of eternal peace was a dream. Now they must all do what they can to enable us to avoid the nightmare.

PJ Anders Linder

VD och chefredaktör i Axess. 

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