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Defence Minister 'sets the bar too low': critics

Defence Minister 'sets the bar too low': critics

Published: 09 Jan 2013 17:46 GMT+01:00
Updated: 09 Jan 2013 17:46 GMT+01:00

Sweden’s defence minister faced a barrage of criticism on Wednesday after she said it was “enough” for Sweden only to be able to defend itself militarily for a week if it came under attack.

Sverker Göranson, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, recently said that Sweden’s scaled backed military leaves the country vulnerable. Sweden, he claimed, could only defend itself for one week if it came under attack.

Defence Minister Karin Enström responded that the level of preparedness was appropriate given the credibility of an attack.

“This is reasonable if you assess what threats there are and also what it looks like in our neighbouring countries, which have about the same capacity as we do,” she told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

She said there is no current military threat to Sweden.

Her statements were not welcomed by some of her colleagues. Allan Widman, military spokesperson for the government-coalition partner Liberal Party (Folkpartiet), was among her critics on Wednesday.

“I think a neutral country must have higher ambitions than this irrespective of the current situation,” he told the TT news agency.

He said it was difficult to properly assess threat levels.

“That’s the tragedy of trying to assess threats to national security. I agree that the likelihood of attack seems low, but no politicians can rule out a military offensive.”

Widman pointed out that Nato is not obliged to come to non-member Sweden’s aid, a point also made by the military coalition's secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen in the autumn of 2012.

The opposition Social Democrat party also expressed concern at the defence minister’s attitude.

"It’s remarkable and surprising that she thinks this is ok. You’ve got to set the bar higher,” said Peter Hultqvist, chairman of the parliamentary committee on defence.

The Swedish Armed Forces (Försvarsmakten) spokesman Erik Lagersten took to Twitter this week to explain further the statements made by the commander-in-chief.

Lagersten said the assessment that Sweden would only last a week refers to the effect of changes to the military that will have been completely phased in by the year 2019.

The one-week statement also refers to a situation where the Swedish military has been dragged into low-scale conflicts for a few weeks before facing a full-scale offensive, but even then it refers to a scenario where Sweden is not the main target, but an ally of the target, of the aggressor.

The calculation was derived from research carried out before the military submitted its new budget proposal to the government. The documents are classified.

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Your comments about this article

18:28 January 9, 2013 by Rishonim
Well, it took the Germans one week or so to conquer France;-) so one week defense against an attack from Liechtenstein is good enough.
18:45 January 9, 2013 by charliedog
To think of a miltary attack on Sweden is a serious stretch of the imagination. Maybe the Danes need a bit more space but everyone else in the neighbourhood seems content.
20:07 January 9, 2013 by Cornelius Hamelberg
Extreme paranoia is cured by greater - much greater assurances that mama Svea can defend herself

There's an old Swedish prophecy about the Ruskies (the Russian teddy near) - by one Gustafson or Johansen who actually travelled all the way - I think it was from Kristianstad to the headquarters of the Swedish Foreign Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Gustav Adolf Torg to prophecy to the generals that after a particularly beautiful summer - suddenly - out of nowhere - the Ruskies will attack Mama Svea.

And, talking about Ruskies or extremism, we don't know if we still have the electricity and the current like the one passed on by that ultra Russian nationalist & male chauvinist by the name of Vladimir Zhirinovsky. He once said (with reference to Elisabeth Rehn who was then Minister of Defence of Finland) "I do not respect a country which has a woman as Minster of defence."

The folly of mis-underestimating the enemy....
21:21 January 9, 2013 by rohermoker
Do not depend on the US comming to your aid, we would have to first ask if it is worth borrowing from china to pay the bill.
21:42 January 9, 2013 by entry
All boarding states to Sweden are of no threat. Russia does not even seem to be a current threat. If Russia did anything I think their aggression would be south and into the continent. Sweden needs to beef up domestic defense for the threat that is within. Terrorism and civil unrest should be the focus although participation with NATO or an up and coming European defense force should be considered.
22:19 January 9, 2013 by Eric1
What a sick mind. This woman has no place in government, more less anything to do with national defense.
00:00 January 10, 2013 by GLO
Just found out her job, HaHaHaHa....Most men would believe the same,

All Leaders around the World feel same.

Every real enemy would just take Sweden, weak, a girl leader of Military HaHaHa.....
07:00 January 10, 2013 by CPO Sharkey
The late Edwin Reischauer (Harvard professor, US Ambassador, guy smarter than me) actually singled out Sweden when discussing the subject of neutrality: "To be neutral you must be ready to be highly militarized, like Switzerland or Sweden." Unlike Switzerland, Sweden is not a landlocked country with easily defensible terrain.

No, I don't think it's likely Denmark will try and recapture Scania anytime in the near future: "Hey, Jørgen, that 1679 Peace of Lund treaty is really sticking in my craw," but having a strong national defense in a neutral country is, unfortunately, a necessity. An insurance policy you probably won't need but it's vital to have, even if your only intent is to display from time to time: "See? I keep the shotgun right here, under the cash register."

Typically, belligerents don't announce they're going to attack, and world events happen in an instant. The Defense Minister's leap of logic is amazing: "…threats… what it looks like in our neighboring countries, which have about the same capacity as we do." What does that have to do with ANYTHING? "Oh, they all have about the same level of national defense; I can't decide which one to attack." It's even more stupid if you're officially NEUTRAL. Heck, by that logic Sweden (and her neighbors) should scrap national defense and just have one Soldier each, armed with an authentic Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun. There is no need to thank me, just send me a percentage of the savings on my new Swedish Defense Plan. Oh, and I'm threatening to conquer Scania with my new wonder weapons, safety googles and a pointed stick.
07:53 January 10, 2013 by RobinHood
Sweden does not need expensive kit to defend itself against enemies it does not have.

Sweden does have plenty of enemies within its own internal population. Spend the money there instead, where it can do some good.
08:12 January 10, 2013 by isenhand
Finally, the Local managed to pick this story up!

The government here has displayed a nice bit of poor thinking. They look at the "now situation" and the "near situation" and see no threat, therefore no need for a defence. However, that type of thinking has been shown wrong in the pass time and time again and often increases the probability of war.

There maybe no direct threat to Sweden "now" but other Nordic countries do see threats towards them (Norway has started to increase it's defence spending, for example). There are also politically unstable countries in Europe that could see a war that could drag in Sweden (as part of the EU as Sweden runs the Nordic battle group).

The political situation can change far faster than it takes to build up an effective defence form the "non defence" position we have now. The defence minister is in serious error.
09:04 January 10, 2013 by djmarko
she probably told the truth, well Sweden does not have any enemies as such
09:26 January 10, 2013 by Kevin Harris
I live on a hill, so I need no flood insurance. When I move somewhere lower,or the sea gets much higher, I'll buy some.

I have no children, so I need no child insurance. When I have children, I'll buy some.

I have no need for an AK47, so I haven't bought one. When I need one, I'll buy one.

Sensible people (and countries) don't buy stuff they don't need; especially expensive stuff. No reasonable scenario sees "neutral" Sweden being dragged into a sudden hot war; People who foresee the Danes or Poles invading Skåna need sedating.

Sweden can easily satisfy it's international obligations (and thus earn reciprocal NATO and EU protection) by providing logistical and medical support. Any strategic commander would welcome a fleet of Volvo trucks and a few field hospitals, two things there are never enough of when things get hot. The Swedes are dreadful at shooting things, but logistics and medicine; now that's where they shine.
10:03 January 10, 2013 by rramirez
The question is not what threats does Sweden face now and could it defend itself against those threats now. The question is what kind of threats could Sweden face in the future, how long would it take for those threats to gestate, and how long would it take Sweden to develop a defense against those threats. You can't just defend against the seen, you must defend against the unseen. And it takes years of planning and a certain level of paranoia. Its not like buying isnsurance - by the time you know you need it, its probably too late to get it.
11:21 January 10, 2013 by Kevin Harris
@ Rramirez

Bar zombie apocalypse and alien invasion from the planet Zargon, there are absolutely no short term, medium term, or long term military threats to Sweden.

You just don't spend hundreds of billions of Crowns on shiny fighter jets and big green panzers unless you can actually think of a credible situation when you might need them to defend the realm. I can't. The Swedish military can't, the politicians can't. No sane person can. The only people who can, believe in zombie apocalypse and Zargons and buy great stocks of firearms and food which they keep in concrete bunkers buried in their gardens.

When it comes to defending the realm from invaders, Sweden's military has absolutely no role at all. They can't identify a threat and therefore have no idea what equipment to buy to counter it, or how to train with it if and deploy it if they did buy it. Do you suggest they buy it all, just in case?

You are, of course, perfectly entitled to invest your own money in firearms to see off zombies and Zargons, but to ask the hard-pressed Swedish tax payers to join you in your" planning" and "paranoia" is unreasonable.
12:59 January 10, 2013 by newsjerseyballs
I just saw an article here about all these Swedish guys getting raped. The whole friggin country is next from what I'm reading about your defense lady. What kind of a guy gets raped?! Seriously, what kind of a shlub is that. I bet none of these poor guys could dream of where the next threat could lie...until....BOOM... right up the bum. What a goof. You're spitting distance from Russia and you can't imagine the next threat. Gee, that's a stable place. And friendly too. Instead you are paying money to SFI, idiots like me and 40,000 incoming Syrians how not to learn Swedish. Whatever. I guess you have your priorities. I don't give a S.
13:46 January 10, 2013 by isenhand
@Kevin Harris

It's not just about invasion of Sweden (and I agree, it's unlikely). It is also about Europe as a whole and about the Nordic countries. Sweden has also committed itself to defending other countries and there is a direct threat against other Nordic countries and instabilities in Europe that could, in the next 10 years of so, lead to Sweden entering a war in Europe.

As for what equipment to buy; Sweden needs to build up a defence force that can combat a modern, armoured/mechanised enemy with airborne/amphibious troops and special forces, regardless. Sweden could take Russia as an example.
14:08 January 10, 2013 by Polish-Finnish Swede
We don't know anything about the long term threat. In 1985 no one knew about the fall of the Soviet union and end of the cold war 5 years later. History only teaches us that things can change fast and that we never seem to learn. In 1925 after WW1 defense spending was in Sweden was cut by 50%. No one could imagine a new great war. But just 8 years later Hitler was in power and we all know what happened. In 1939 Sweden was completely unprepared, like many other small nations that were not as lucky as Sweden. Unfortunately, with the current recession in Europe and political extremists (Hungary, Greece and elsewhere) gaining ground things look eerily similar to the situation with political unrest in Europe between the two world wars.

Basically, we can only look at the hardware. Russia is rebuilding its forces with, hundreds of jets, 750K-1000K troops, new submarines and 2-4 new amphibious assault ships (French Mistral Class). Those latter are certainly not defensive tools. The stuff will be available to them in a few years for whatever purpose. We also know that it takes years to rebuild whatever capabilities the Swedish military has lost in recent years. No, the likelihood of a Russian invasion to gain territory is minimal at this point. But varying degrees of military pressure, from provocations to "quick assaults" like Georgia 2008(9?), from a country with an increasingly totalitarian government must be seriously considered and always prepared for. The way Russia will handle any sort of serious disagreement with Sweden will, of course, depend on how militarily well prepared Sweden is. If a foreign power chooses measure A rather than measure B because Sweden has a viable defense then the military has filled an important function simply by existing and without most of us knowing it.

People tend to forget that the military fills this important political function in times of peace simply by being there. If the Swedish government argues that "the international community must react and take action" in some crisis that is important to us, how many will listen to what we say if Sweden itself cannot contribute? And no, Sweden cannot stick to logistics or medicine and expect others to do the 'dirty work'. Nothing wrong with field hospitals (Korea 1951-53, Iraq 1991, Somalia 1992-93) but Swedish troops have also proven themselves as excellent infantrymen in places like Congo (1961-63ish, 2003), Bosnia (1992-95) and Afghanistan (2002-).

One week is simply not good enough and we can never expect help in time unless bound by treaty. General declarations in times of peace are worthless, just words!
10:44 January 11, 2013 by isenhand
@ Polish-Finnish Swede

Like :)
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