• Sweden edition
 
Opinion
'Swedes prioritize welfare and jobs above security'
The Swedish king decorates a war veteran at a ceremony last year. File: Jimmy Croona/CombatCamera

'Swedes prioritize welfare and jobs above security'

Published: 14 May 2014 16:56 GMT+02:00
Updated: 14 May 2014 16:56 GMT+02:00

In the wake of Russian annexation of Crimea, the Swedish defense debate has intensified over the nature of its security structures and partnerships. The Swedish solidarity declaration of 2009 is frequently criticized for being unresourced and therefore weak:
 
“Sweden will not remain passive if another EU Member State or Nordic country suffers a disaster or an attack. We expect these countries to act in the same way if Sweden is similarly affected. We must be able to both give and receive support, civilian as well as military.”
 
As I have argued before, it is normal for a policy declaration to precede resourcing, and in fact such a policy declaration is the foundation for justifying resourcing decisions.  There is then naturally a time gap from intent to full capability, with analysis of world events setting the urgency.
 
But the weakness of Sweden’s solidarity declaration is not embodied only in inadequate resources, not even primarily.  Many of Nato’s member states have tangibly inadequate resources to defend themselves or contribute a decisive force to the collective.  What makes Sweden’s solidarity declaration unconvincing is current and historic lack of political will to live up to this formulation.
 
Neutrality has long been absent from formal Swedish policy, and yet it is still commonly referenced in general public discourse and even appears in political discourse.  It is a well-documented contention that even under a declared policy of neutrality, the government of Sweden maintained a hidden agreement with Nato.  
 
That such a disconnect would exist between what a democratic nation tells its electorate, and what it says to prospective security partners is hardly confidence building.  Security partners would accede to such agreements only in cases that are unequivocally in their own self-interest, as was the case in the Cold War.
 
It is not common for Nations to explicitly express their lack of confidence in a potential security partner’s commitment. The language of diplomacy has no suitable vocabulary for expressing to a friend that they are not deemed a reliable security partner.
 
This perhaps explains why the Nato Secretary General and the American Ambassador merely indicated that a unilateral solidarity declaration from Sweden does not change the applicability of Nato Article 5 to non-member states.  Materiel capacity and operational skill are easily measured and graded.  NATO does such assessments and Sweden always fares well.  
 
Based on Swedish Armed Forces performance in Afghanistan, Libya, and the Balkans Nato commanders harbour little doubt that when so ordered Swedish Forces can and will deliver as well or better than many member nations.  No such objective measure is made and published of a nations will. 
 
But they observe.  And what they see is a divided electorate with many that still believe in outdated warfighting concepts, cling to a concept of self-defense rather than collective defense, and see jobs, welfare and economy has much higher priority issues than security. A government that for the time being supports a collective approach to security on a narrow majority can readily be replaced or inhibited from acting by a strong opposition that favors isolation or neutrality.
 
Sweden’s internal political opposition’s instinct to oppose appears much stronger than its instinct to support policies required to defend the nation.  Opposition politicians and commentators happily point out materiel and personnel shortcomings in current defense policies, though outsiders can see quite clearly that the opposition rarely, if ever, offers funded alternatives that would improve these things.  On the contrary, the Swedish “shadow budget” traditions show clearly that had the opposition chosen, the available resources would have been considerably less.  
 
In emphasizing the narrow majority that implemented the current defense reforms, the opposition emphasizes to the outside world how fragile the agreement to work in cooperation with others actually is.  True, the solidarity declaration rhetoric had broad support, but the rhetoric did not cost anything.  The opposition’s views of how best to handle national problems, both internal and external, are legitimate choices and have significant public support.  In short, Sweden is a healthy democracy.  But as with all choices, there are consequences.   
 
In this case, the consequence is rather weak faith from outsiders that Sweden would carry through on their commitment to help others in the event of existential threats, regardless of the resources available.
 
The current government recognizes this, and their leading party has commendably taken the stance that despite a long-time policy favoring Nato membership, pursuing Nato membership with such a weak majority and the likely resulting vacillation is irresponsible for a nation like Sweden who prides itself on being first in class when committing to a task.  Ironically, the opposition criticizes them for that too.
 
The credibility gap extends beyond just the solidarity declaration.  Sweden is an arms exporter emphasizing quality, sustainable, and economical solutions.  With noteworthy voter sentiments of neutrality and rejection of military solutions to disputes, it does not stretch the imagination that Sweden would choose to, or be easily intimidated into betraying customers using Swedish manufactured materiel in an armed conflict in the vicinity in order to avoid becoming more deeply involved, as happened to the United States prior to World War II.  
 
The opponents to Swedish Nato membership seem to grasp their own inability to stand firm.  One of the more passionate arguments presented in Sweden against Nato membership involves the loss of national independence to the Nato decision process.  A nation that doubts that it can find the mettle to resist 28 friendly democratic Nations in an organization built on consensus can hardly be expected to stand firm against a tyrant, fearing loss of sovereignty to Brussels more than Moscow. 
 
Furthermore, there is equally strong political sentiment in the current opposition that any Swedish military action outside its borders be conducted only under a United Nations mandate, and preferably under United Nations leadership.  There is no other conceivable military threat in the immediate vicinity than Russia, and it is similarly inconceivable that a UN mandate will ever empower a coalition to react to Russian intimidation.
 
There remains a relatively strong sentiment in Sweden that neutrality has served her well.  If the effect that is measured is avoidance of war, the argument is strong.  If, however, one considers unhindered German troop transport en route to neighbour Norway, inaction over Russian incursion in Finland, return of refugees to Soviet-occupied Baltic states, hidden alliances, continued mythology of equal culpability in east-west relations, and avoidance of a Nato debate for fear of provocation of Russia, a clear and lasting casualty of neutrality policy is credibility.  
 
The solidarity declaration formulation is not the problem, but rather the political sentiment backing it up.  The solution lies in a sustained change in behaviour that rebuilds that credibility.
 

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Sweden resumes aid to 'anti-gay Uganda'
Hillevi Engström and protesters against Uganda's anti-gay laws. Photos: Maja Suslin/Ben Curtis/TT

Sweden resumes aid to 'anti-gay Uganda'

Sweden has resumed sending development aid funds to Uganda, after suspending payouts back in March due to "anti-gay legislation". READ  

The Local List
Top ten coffee spots in central Stockholm
Fanny feels at home at the Blå Lotus. Photo: Isabela Vrba

Top ten coffee spots in central Stockholm

If you're wondering where to grab your next cappucino, then wonder no more. The Local talked to the locals in Stockholm and found out the best spots in town for the ultimate fika experience. READ  

Swedish neo-Nazis join fight in Ukraine
The Azov task force. Photo: Sergei Chuzavkov/TT

Swedish neo-Nazis join fight in Ukraine

Four Swedes are fighting with the Ukrainian task force Azov - a squad which flies a flag with Nazi symbols and, according to one Swedish soldier, fights for "a white Ukraine". READ  

Swedish elk get one-way ticket to Denmark
The elk in this picture are not the ones that will be sent to Denmark. Photo: The Uppsala Koala

Swedish elk get one-way ticket to Denmark

Up to a dozen elk will be transported from Sweden to Denmark in an effort to help maintain local marshlands. READ  

Sweden worst in EU at getting foreigners jobs
Photo: Henrik Trygg/Imagebank Sweden

Sweden worst in EU at getting foreigners jobs

UPDATED: Swedish citizens are the most likely to be employed in the EU, but Sweden is among the very worst when it comes to getting non-EU citizens into work. READ  

Man arrested for burning partner's face
Photo: Linn Malmén/TT

Man arrested for burning partner's face

Police suspect that a man in western Sweden is responsible for the extreme burns on his partner's face. The man has been arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault - and potentially attempted murder. READ  

In Pictures: Conchita Wurst in Stockholm
Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

In Pictures: Conchita Wurst in Stockholm

Eurovision winner and LGBTQ idol Conchita Wurst is in Stockholm this week for Stockholm Pride - and joined Swedes at Skansen for a colourful summer sing-along. READ  

Stockholm holds colour contest for new metro
Photo: Joel Bagon

Stockholm holds colour contest for new metro

Stockholm's new metro line is not set for preliminary construction until 2016, and will not be completed until 2022 - but Swedes already have the chance to vote for the new line's colour. READ  

Sweden's heat wave officially over
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Sweden's heat wave officially over

The heat wave that swept over Sweden recently has finally passed, meteorologists reported on Wednesday, promising cooler and more autumnal temperatures around the corner. READ  

Ukraine rebels release kidnapped Swede
Rebel tanks on the road to Horlivka in June. Photo: TT

Ukraine rebels release kidnapped Swede

The Swede who was kidnapped by pro-Russian rebels has been released after nearly three weeks of being held hostage - although no one knows where he is now. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
Stockholm Pride kicks off
Analysis
The top six ways the US and Sweden differ
National
Swedish youth suicides hit 25-year high
National
Politician reported for selling 'negro ball'
National
Police turn blind eye to Swedish 'slave trade'
Blog updates

27 July

Approaching Stockholm (Around Sweden in a kayak) »

"I woke up in the comfort of my own little cabin on Eva and Rolf’s boat, it was 7:30am and I was feeling a bit groggy after a couple of beers with all the lovely locals the night before. The previous day had really taken its toll on my body and I was very stiff and..." READ »

 

24 July

Sharing our Pride: Celebrating Love & the LGBT Community! (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"It’s mid- July in Stockholm, and with much of the city on vacation, things can seem a little quiet – the streets, the bus, and the grocery store. One thing that has not paused for a summer break, though, is preparation for Stockholm’s Pride Festival, which will take place from July 28 to August 2...." READ »

 
 
 
Gallery
Stockholm Pride: Allsång på Skansen with Conchita Wurst
Skatteverket
Sponsored Article
Introducing... ID cards and permits in Stockholm
Gallery
People-watching, June 26th - 28th. Get inside Stockholm's hottest nightclubs
Gallery
Top ten Swedish taboos
Society
Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
Politics
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Society
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Business & Money
Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
National
Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Society
What's On in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching July 23
National
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
Gallery
People-watching Båstad
Business & Money
Sweden falls to third in global innovation index
Society
Swedish ornithologists keep webcam watch
Photo: Andreas Nordström/Image Bank Sweden
Gallery
Top ten Swedish beach hot spots
Tech
Swedish Wiki vet sets new content record
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån
Lifestyle
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Housing 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

749
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
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
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