• Sweden's news in English
 
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

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
Hoho: Estelle records cute Christmas message
Princess Estelle pictured in her 2014 Christmas jumper. Photo: Kate Gabor/royalcourt.se

Hoho: Estelle records cute Christmas message

Video: Sweden's little Princess Estelle has got into the spirit of Christmas by recording a special message together with her parents. READ  

Swedes over-estimate English abilities: expert
BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg suffers a linguistic let-down at The White House in 2010. File photo: TT

Swedes over-estimate English abilities: expert

Swedes enjoy a high level of self-confidence with regard to their English abilities, a new survey has shown, although one expert has questioned whether this belief is misplaced. READ  

Sweden seeks ban on foreign booze advertising
File photo: Shutterstock.

Sweden seeks ban on foreign booze advertising

Two powerful Swedish lobby groups have turned to the European Commission to try and get a complete ban on alcohol advertising on television, after it emerged some channels were dodging the ban by being registered abroad. READ  

Minecraft creator beats Beyonce in mansion bid
Markus Persson created hit game Minecraft. Photo: TT

Minecraft creator beats Beyonce in mansion bid

UPDATED: Swedish billionaire Markus Persson is reported to have outbid the likes of Jay-Z and Beyonce with his half billion kronor offer ($70 million) for a 2,000-square-metre Beverly Hills mansion. READ  

Accelerated for Ice Music
Ice Music taps Texas troubadour for new tunes
A scene from a 2014 Ice Music concert in Luleå. Photo: Graeme Richardson/Swedish Lapland

Ice Music taps Texas troubadour for new tunes

The world's "coolest concert" is set for a Texas twist in 2015 when Luleå's innovative Ice Music welcomes American musical talent from Austin, home of the South By Southwest (SXSW) music festival. READ  

Second baby on the way for Princess Madeleine
Princess Madeleine at the previous Nobel banquet. Photo: TT

Second baby on the way for Princess Madeleine

UPDATED: Sweden's Royal Court has announced that Princess Madeleine is pregnant with the second child of her financier husband Chris O'Neill. READ  

Video
Video: The best & worst of Swedish Christmas
Tom says he is a big fan of the food. Photo: The Local

Video: The best & worst of Swedish Christmas

What's the best thing about Christmas in Sweden? The worst? And perhaps most importantly, the tastiest? The Local's Paul O'Mahony hits the Old Town's Christmas market as the first snow of the season falls to find out more. READ  

Swedish 'butcher' murderer gets 16 years
Forensic experts examine the scene where the victim's body was dumped in Askersund. Photo: Pavel Koubek/TT

Swedish 'butcher' murderer gets 16 years

A Swedish woman who killed and then hacked up a female love rival has been sentenced to 16 years in prison and also ordered to pay damages to the victim's family. READ  

Bildt works as babysitter on Swedish reality show
Carl Bildt. Photo: Sergei Chuzavkov/AP

Bildt works as babysitter on Swedish reality show

Former Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has been given a cautious thumbs up for his child-minding abilities after appearing on a Swedish Celebrity Babysitter show. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: December 18th to 25th
National
'Unprecedented' Russian activity: Armed Forces
Society
Interview: The Local chats with Melinda Gates
Society
VIDEO: Stockholmers try out some Swedish tongue twisters
Society
Eight things to do when it gets dark in Umeå
Blog updates

19 December

-t or no -t? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! There are many things in the Swedish language that can give you a grey hair or two,..." READ »

 

19 December

Editor’s Blog, December 19th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, Father Time has taken another week from us, but never fear – good old Father..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Inside Sweden's first 'light therapy' school
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching: December 17th
Estelle through the years
Gallery
Princess Estelle through the years
Society
Why are there so many 100-year-olds in one Swedish town?
Society
Is it time to better celebrate Sweden's diverse identity?
Gallery
Property of the week: Huddinge
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
National
CATCH UP: Russian plane in Baltic near-miss drama
Lifestyle
How my compass drew me to Sweden
National
The man whose memory you need to remember
Gallery
People-watching: December 13th - 14th
Sponsored Article
How to get your own office anywhere in the world
Politics
'Our party will stand alone': Stefan Löfven
Society
The Local chats to Ruben Östlund, director of Golden Globe nominated Force Majeure
Lifestyle
Ten things to know before a Swedish party
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: December 12th to 19th
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The 2014 Nobel Banquet
National
The Local's guide to the Nobel Prizes 2014
Education
Introducing... Education in Stockholm
Society
The Swedish Christmas market with a twist
Lifestyle
Why do so many Swedes have tattoos?
Society
Get 20% off Swedish Christmas decorations
National
Dewani family: We only heard half the story
Business & Money
Business in Stockholm: 'efficiency is money'
Gallery
Property of the week: Östermalm
National
Meet the Swedes hosting festive feasts for 'lonely' guests
Gallery
TIMELINE: Swedish honeymoon killing murder trial
Gallery
People-watching: December 7th
Gallery
IN PICTURES: What's it like to fly planes in Sweden?
National
Submarine hunters 'robbed' of reward cash
National
The Local's Countdown to Christmas
National
'Dangerous' USB charger recalled in Sweden
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's King and Queen wrap up France tour
National
Analysis: Should Snowden get asylum in Sweden?
National
Swedish schoolboy in female saint role row
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's political crisis unfolds
Gallery
People-watching: December 3rd
National
What happened to Sweden's ice bucket cash?
Lifestyle
Top Swedish songs of the month
Sponsored Article
SIS: the thinking behind globalised learning
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Family life in Stockholm
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

826
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
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply
Counselling and Psychotherapy in English
Sometimes living in another culture can cause stress, confusion and feelings of sadness and loneliness. Talking to a professional psychotherapist/counsellor might help you. I am a UKCP Reg. psychotherapist. My practice is in Södermalm, Stockholm.
Contact me to discuss your options