• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

'Sweden hasn't been neutral since 1995'

Oliver Gee · 8 May 2014, 17:21

Published: 08 May 2014 17:21 GMT+02:00

The defence ministers of both Sweden and Finland signed an agreement on Tuesday to conduct a study aimed at ensuring stronger military ties. 
 
Sweden's and Finland's defence ministers, Karin Enström and Carl Haglund, inked the deal in Helsinki. The plan will enable both armed forces to have access to each other's military bases. 
 
Both Enström and Haglund said the deal would shore up the two nations' ability to deal with "crisis management". 
 
Neither made any direct mention of the recent crisis in Ukraine, although experts have argued that Russia's antics in the region may have accelerated the alliance. 
 
"This is no coincidence, but it could have happened even without it," Mike Winnerstig, a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences (Kungliga Krigsvetenskapsakademien), told The Local on Thursday.
 
It's not a pact by any means, he said, but an insight into the possibility of forming mutual military units.
 
"The problem is the Swedish Armed Forces are very differently structured to Finnish and both have their own problems. In the case of Sweden it's a problem of quantity,"  Winnerstig added.
 
He pointed to Sweden's defensive manpower getting cut by 90 percent over the past 15 years - "quite a cut by any measure," he said. 
 
"It means we need more of almost everything to be able to defend ourselves. We can't defend ourselves any more against any kind of sophisticated military attack."
 
Sweden's defence capabilities have been under the microscope before. Early last year, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Sverker Göransson, said that Sweden’s scaled-back military meant Sweden could only defend itself for one week if it came under attack.
 
"Of course it's a concern," Winnerstig said.
 
"Especially now in terms of the Ukraine situation. But things are changing here. Fifteen years ago our decision makers said there is never going to be any more threat on Swedish territory in our lifetimes. They decreased the defence budget dramatically by zillions of Swedish kronor."
 
The result? At best, a few thousand readily available Swedish troops, the expert guessed.
 
Sweden's army is already almost fully compatible with Nato standards, more so than some Nato countries, Winnerstig pointed out, adding that Sweden had been part of Nato operations since the Bosnian war in the early nineties.
 
The problem is that Sweden is not at the decision-making table, he argued, adding that he has been a long-time advocate of Sweden joining Nato.
 
"For Sweden, the whole [neutrality] policy became an ideology in the seventies, especially for the Social Democrats and their leader Olof Palme.
 
"They became so enamoured with the policy of neutrality that they turned it into something else. It used to be a way to avoid being attacked, which was successful during the two world wars, but in the 70s and 80s and their political environments, neutrality became an ideology and part of Sweden's identity," he said.
 
"For most Social Democrats and several others today, being a Swede is being neutral no matter what. It doesn't matter if it's completely out of touch with reality. I mean, who are we going to be neutral against?"
Story continues below…
 
Sweden formally discarded neutrality in 1995 when joining the EU anyway, he added.
 
"But the notion stayed in peoples' minds. They think that to join a military alliance, regardless of whether it's Nato or something else, is a bad thing to do. It's against our national identity."
 
Back in Helsinki, Haglund and Enström were keen to maintain that the renewed partnership was about peacetime stability. They said it also demonstrated a willingness to support each other in times of crisis. 
 
"The fact that we establish joint units and allow one another to use our airbases and ports conveys a strong message of our willingness to work together," said Haglund. 
 
The finer details of the agreement are still being ironed out with conclusions on the alliance to be released next January. 
 

Oliver Gee (oliver.gee@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Kidnappers with chainsaw abduct man in Stockholm
The scene of the kidnapping in Stockholm. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

A man has been arrested after armed kidnappers bundled another man into a van and drove off with him shortly after noon on Friday outside the Bromma Blocks shopping centre in Stockholm.

Border Checks
Commuters to seek damages from Sweden over ID checks
The Öresund bridge. Photo: Erland Vinberg/TT

The Southern Sweden Chamber of Commerce is collecting commuters' names ahead of an attempt to claim damages from the Swedish state over ID checks in the Öresund region.

Why Swedes are so relaxed about taking gap years
Anna Tybrandt and her friends in Malaysia/Photo: Private

But the French aren't so keen.

Euro 2016
How Iceland made Swedes 'proud to be Nordic'
Fans react in Reykjavic after Iceland defeat England. Photo: Brynjar Gunnarsson

Sweden failed to make it past the group stages at Euro 2016. The fans needed a new team, and now they've got one.

Why this Swedish police dog has been hailed as a hero
Äddie the police dog has finally retired after ten years on the job. Photo: Christer Torlen

A heart-warming Stockholm Police tribute to Äddie the retiring police dog has attracted hundreds of replies and thousands of likes on Facebook.

Five facts on Manchester United-bound Ibrahimovic
Ibrahimovic is on his way to Old Trafford. Here's everything you need to know. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has finally confirmed his next choice of club. Here are five facts on the Swedish striker after he announced he is signing for Manchester United on Thursday.

Swedish state appeals against Roma register ruling
Fred Taikon was one of the eleven victims. Photo: Maja Suslin

A court ruling judged that the Swedish state should pay out compensation to eleven victims of ethnic discrimination, but an appeal has now been launched.

Ikea opens massive museum in Sweden
A scene from the museum in Älmhult. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

Flatpack enthusiasts rejoice: Ikea has just opened a 7,000 square metre museum in the building that once housed its original store.

The Local Recipes
How to make a Swedish chicken and strawberry salad
Chicken and strawberry: a better combination than it may seem. Photo: SwedishFood.com

Easy to prepare, this chicken and strawberry salad is the meal you need this weekend, trust us!

Ibrahimovic confirms Manchester United move
Ibrahimovic playing for Sweden at Euro 2016. Photo: Thanassis Stavrakis/TT

Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has put months of speculation over his future to an end by confirming that he will join Manchester United.

Sponsored Article
5 reasons you should try dating with The Inner Circle
National
'A Swedish passport means more than a British one now'
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
The Local Voices
The Syrian body-building champion fighting the urge to eat sweets in Sweden
Business & Money
Swedish banknotes expire this week
Blog updates

1 July

Editor’s blog, July 1st (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello and welcome to this week’s news round-up. The fall-out from the Brexit vote has come…" READ »

 

28 June

A message for British expats in Sweden (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"The people of the United Kingdom have voted to leave the European Union. As Prime Minister…" READ »

 
 
 
Gallery
People-watching: June 29th
Sponsored Article
International students in Stockholm partner with Nepal school
International
Foul-mouthed attack on young Swedish mother in England
Private
The Local Voices
'Having a Middle Eastern name makes life in Sweden hard'
National
Is this Swede the new Vincent van Gogh?
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Politics
Citizenship applications up 500% for Brits in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
The humble Swede who sent England home from Euro 2016
Gallery
Property of the week: Torhamn
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Private
The Local Voices
'Sweden is the best place for people with special needs'
Sponsored Article
The man behind Sweden's biggest music festival
International
'A morning of sorrow': Sweden reacts to Brexit vote
International
Sweden opposition cools talk of 'Swexit' poll
Sponsored Article
US expats: Have you met your tax deadlines?
International
'Devastated' - Brits in Sweden shocked by Brexit vote
Sponsored Article
Malmö: Home to the best food in Sweden?
Gallery
People-watching: June 22nd
Sponsored Article
VIDEO: Why Malmö is the world's 6th best city for biking
Private
The Local Voices
'Swedes don't treat me differently because I wear a hijab'
Sponsored Article
5 reasons you should try dating with The Inner Circle
Culture
How do Swedes celebrate Midsummer?
Culture
Coming soon: Sweden’s smelly fermented fish
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
National
Assange lawyer: Sweden should recognize UN opinion
Private
The Local Voices
Why is this Syrian dentist who hugs like a Swede worried about undies?
Swedish nationalist 'shot and ate' lion and giraffe
Analysis & Opinion
'Sweden's residency revamp is harmful and inhumane'
Photo: The Local
The Local Voices
UNHCR boss: 'It's hard to start your life without your family'
3,314
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se