• Sweden edition
 
Sweden Finland Defence Deal
'Sweden hasn't been neutral since 1995'
Photo: TT

'Sweden hasn't been neutral since 1995'

Published: 08 May 2014 17:21 GMT+02:00
Updated: 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?"
 
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
Royal News
Swedish royal couple set wedding date
The couple pictured in the summer. Photo: TT

Swedish royal couple set wedding date

UPDATED: Sweden's Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist, who got engaged earlier this year, have announced they will marry next June. READ  

Analysis
Sweden Democrat threats 'just a show'
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson. Photo: TT

Sweden Democrat threats 'just a show'

There is talk that the nationalist Sweden Democrats could trigger a fresh election, by rejecting the new coalition's budget. But leading Political Scientist Li Bennich Björkman tells The Local that the party is just game-playing and should be focusing on getting its fatigued leader back. READ  

Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st
Chocolate and liquorice are on the menu in Gothenburg this weekend. Photo: Shutterstock

What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st

A secret gig in Stockholm, a short film festival in Uppsala and a gastronomy event in Gothenburg have caught our eye this week. READ  

Science
Astronaut helps launch first student satellite
Christer Fuglesang on a previous space mission. Photo: TT

Astronaut helps launch first student satellite

Sweden's debut astronaut Christer Fuglesang is helping students at KTH Royal Institute of Technology to become the first in the country to make their own satellite and send it into space. READ  

New coalition
New coalition reveals 'compromise' budget
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Green Party leader Åsa Romson. Photo: TT

New coalition reveals 'compromise' budget

UPDATED: Prime Minister Stefan Löfven's Social Democrat-led coalition has revealed its first budget proposal, listing plans to spend more than 20 billion kronor. READ  

Weather
Sweden braces for ten centimetres of snow
Kiruna, in far northern Sweden, has already been hit by snow this season. Photo: TT

Sweden braces for ten centimetres of snow

Sweden's weather agency has warned that up to ten centimetres of snow are on the way for Sweden. READ  

Business and Money
Global profit boost for Handelsbanken
Handelsbanken is Sweden's second largest bank. Photo: Bertil Eriksson/TT

Global profit boost for Handelsbanken

Sweden's second-largest bank, Handelsbanken, has reported a rise in third-quarter profits, boosted by higher income from its loan book as it continues its expansion overseas. READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Sweden pulls back 'submarine' search
Navy vessels remain in the archipelago. Photo: Lars Pehrson/TT

Sweden pulls back 'submarine' search

Sweden is pulling back part of the naval operation which has been searching for a suspected Russian submarine off the coast of Stockholm for nearly a week. READ  

Julian Assange
Assange prepares for court ruling in Sweden
Julian Assange at Ecuador's embassy in the UK. Photo: Anthony Devlin

Assange prepares for court ruling in Sweden

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says he is "confident" his asylum status will be resolved, as he awaits an imminent ruling on his case by a Swedish court. READ  

Opinion
'Why were we kept in the dark for years?'
The submarine hunt is now in it's sixth day. Photo: TT

'Why were we kept in the dark for years?'

Military expert Johanne Hildebrandt tells The Local that the biggest question in the Stockholm submarine hunt hasn't been answered yet - why don't we know more about the "other operations" from the last few years? READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
In Pictures: Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Lifestyle
Eight things to love about renting a Swedish apartment
National
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
National
Sub hunt: Day-by-day
National
Sub hunt: Stockholm islanders share their fears with The Local
Blog updates

21 October

Denna & den här (The Swedish Teacher) »

"?Denna? or ?den hr?? Swedish language students often ask question about different pronouns. One pronoun that especially..." READ »

 

19 October

Getting it (Blogweiser) »

"Follow Joel Sherwood on FB Few watch baseball in Sweden. This is excellent when your team loses..." READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
National
Get 20% off unique Swedish homeware
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Politics
Ten new minister faces you should know
Tech
First womb transplant baby in world born in Sweden
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

978
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
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:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN