• Sweden's news in English
 

'Swedes prioritize welfare and jobs above security'

The Local · 14 May 2014, 16:56

Published: 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)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Heavy rain warning for western parts of Sweden
Stockholmers carrying umbrellas this summer. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Heavy rain warning for western parts of Sweden

52 minutes ago

Jump into your boots and get the umbrella out. Forecasters issued a heavy rain warning on Tuesday as it looked like autumn was on its way to Sweden – just in time to welcome the start of September.

Opinion
'Sweden should target women extremists more'
The radical Islamist Al-Shabaab group in Somalia. Photo: Mohamed Sheikh Nor/TT

'Sweden should target women extremists more'

1 hour ago

Female extremism is a growing problem in Sweden and the government should do more to prevent it, argue Jessica Katz and Katarina Tracz from the Stockholm Free World Forum.

Julian Assange
Timeline: Julian Assange sex allegations
Julian Assange following a court hearing in 2010. Photo: TT

Timeline: Julian Assange sex allegations

October 28, 2014

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is fighting extradition to Sweden where he is facing sex assault allegations. The Local looks at the key points in his case so far.

Julian Assange
Sweden edges closer to Assange interrogation
Julian Assange with US pastor Jesse Jackson on the balcony of Ecuador's London embassy. Photo: Yui Mok/PA via AP

Sweden edges closer to Assange interrogation

2 hours ago

Sweden hopes to reach a judicial cooperation deal with Ecuador by the end of the year that would pave the way for prosecutors to question WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over a rape allegation.

Migrant crisis
Thousands saved by Swedish rescue ship
Migrants being taken to the port of Palermo by Poseidon on August 27th. Photo: AP Photo/Alessandro Fucarini

Thousands saved by Swedish rescue ship

16 hours ago

After saving the lives of 5,295 migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean sea during a three-month mission, Swedish rescue ship Poseidon has begun its journey home.

Russian jets spotted off Sweden's east coast
A picture of a Russian TU-22 jet taken at another occasion. Photo: AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin

Russian jets spotted off Sweden's east coast

17 hours ago

UPDATED: Swedish military identified and followed two Russian TU-22 fighter planes escorted by a pair of SU-27 aircraft flying east of the island of Gotland on Monday morning.

Video
Swedes show world how to eat fermented herring
Screengrab: Höga Kusten Destinationsutveckling AB/YouTube

Swedes show world how to eat fermented herring

22 hours ago

A fermented herring expert has teamed up with a Swedish tourism company to show the world how surströmming is supposed to be eaten in response to a BuzzFeed video in which Americans turn their noses up at the Swedish delicacy.

Chinese firm in bid to build Swedish railway
China Railway Construction's chief engineer Xu Keliang. Photo: News Øresund

Chinese firm in bid to build Swedish railway

19 hours ago

A Chinese company has made an offer to build a planned Swedish high-speed railway in record time and at a much lower price than previously estimated, Swedish media has reported.

My Swedish Career
'What can I bring to Sweden that is unique?'
Trevor Adams from Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo: Private

'What can I bring to Sweden that is unique?'

1 day ago

Trevor Adams, 23, tells The Local how he went from washing dishes to running his own restaurant franchise after turning his weakness in the Swedish jobs market into a unique strength.

Migrant crisis
EU calls migrant crisis emergency talks
The Swedish coastguard rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. Photo: Kustbevakningen

EU calls migrant crisis emergency talks

1 day ago

The European Union has called an emergency meeting of interior and justice ministers in two weeks to find concrete measures to cope with escalating migration.

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS

Gallery
People-watching: August 28th-30th
National
'Sweden Democrats will run the country'
National
Swedish bin men hailed as heroes after rescuing doomed kitten
National
This Swedish teen was told she was 'too big' to be a model
Lifestyle
Six reasons to stay outdoors this week
Blog updates

28 August

Editor’s blog, August 28th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, It was all glitz and glamour in Sweden this week as Stockholm Fashion Week got..." READ »

 

18 August

Preteritum eller presens perfekt? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hello everyone, It’s grammar time ! I got an interesting question about the past tense vs present..." READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
'It gives you the guts to believe in yourself'
Gallery
People-watching: August 26th
Sponsored Article
Nine places where Stockholm needs more English
National
Rescued baby lemur gets new Stockholm home
National
Stockholm Fashion Week turns island into Mars
Gallery
Property of the week: Stora Essingen, Stockholm
National
Swedish crayfish thieves caught red handed by officers
National
Veil soon to be lifted on new Millennium sequel novel
Gallery
People-watching: August 21st - 22nd
Cecilia Larsson Lantz/imagebank.sweden.se
Presented by Stockholm Academic Forum
International students welcomed to Stockholm
National
The Bridge: What does the third season have in store?
National
Lucky escape for Swedes after 'dead' bear launches attack
National
Syrian asylum seeker comic: 'We don't prefer Sweden any more'
National
Are anti-immigration nationalists really now Sweden's biggest party?
Lifestyle
Baby joy for Swedish crime queen and her wrestler boyfriend
National
Soldier accused of faking first Isis attack in Sweden
National
Fire alert as Sweden sizzles in summer heatwave
Gallery
People-watching: August 19th
National
Meet the Swede who is crazy for Norway’s mass killer
National
Swede's review of night in drunk tank goes viral
National
VIDEO: Swedish teen melts hearts with this incredible Idol audition
Society
What's a Swedish crayfish party?
National
UN: Sweden can't be left to shoulder migrant crisis alone
Gallery
Property of the week: Skogås, Huddinge
National
Men outstrip women for first time
Society
IN PICTURES: Wooden town resembles 'war zone' after huge fire
Gallery
People-watching: August 14th-16th
Sport
Swedish referee shuts viral Facebook page explaining his decisions
Business & Money
A studio in Stockholm or a castle in the countryside?
National
How did twelve skeletons end up beneath a Swedish castle?
Pharmacy to launch plasters for darker skin in anti racism drive
Gallery
People-watching: August 12th
National
TIMELINE: Everything you need to know about the Julian Assange case
National
Millennium sequel author labelled 'grave robber'
National
Two metre long python stops traffic in Malmö
National
IN PICTURES: Shoppers pay tribute to Ikea stabbing victims
Technology
Danish 'monster' pulled out of Swedish waters
National
Bizarre baby baptism for hockey fan
Gallery
Property of the week: Löderup, Ystad
National
Sunshine brightens up Sweden
Sponsored Article
Getting pregnant the Swedish way
Sponsored Article
Outsourcing drives Apreel's Europe growth
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

3,200
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