Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Swedish defence and security - challenges and possibilities

Swedish defence and security – challenges and possibilities The world has probably never faced so many crisis at the same time as we have now in 2016 and had during 2015. We are up against different types of terror treats from Daesh/IS, states than are in the brink of collapse or already in practice have done so (Syria, Iraq, Libya, Jemen etc) and an refugee flow from Syria, Afghanistan etc which European Union and the individual EU-countries until now have been unable to tackle and even less have workable solutions to. So far. All this urgent threats and crisis take place at the same time as when the European security order is rather shaky and the relations between The West and Russia are worse than in 20 to 25 years. Russia´s illegal annexation of Crimea – since two years back - and the Russian involvement in eastern Ukraine is just now maybe the greatest challenge to the European security order. We cannot and should not accept what Russia has done. It should also not be forgotten because of the very brutal war in Syria. How the outside world – the Nordic countries and others – should respond to Russia’s new and tougher military policy has become a hot topic of debate in many countries. This has been especially the case since 2011 when Russia gradually began to implement an extensive modernisation programme, with increased activity in the Arctic, ever more intrusive and aggressive exercises, the annexation of the Crimea in 2014, support for separatists in, and destabilization of, eastern Ukraine and violations of neighbouring states’ airspace and waters; the latter also affecting Sweden and Finland in 2014. All this made the Nordic countries and Europe realise that we are all going through perhaps the most serious security crisis in 25 years. How all this will end – especially in Ukraine – no one can tell. But it is obvious that the need for enhanced Nordic cooperation on security policy, and a comprehensive European counter-force, is urgent, more so than for a very long time. The requirement to have an in-depth understanding of the world has increased, writes Musts (Military Intelligence and Security Service in the Armed Forces) in its 2014 Annual Report. The Swedish Defence political context – and especially in the wake of the submarine violations (Russia, but not confirmed) in Swedish waters in autumn 2014 and disturbing military air activities during 2015 in the Baltic Sea close to island Gotland etc – led during 2015 to increased activity and discussion among Swedish Defence politicians about the necessaty to upgrade and reinforce our military capacity to step up against the Russian´s large scale military activities and provocative bahavior, as Defece Minister Peter Hultqvist said in his speech at Munich Security Conference on the 13 of February 2016. The defence agreement in April 2015 between the Swedish government and three parties from the opposition and the by parliament adopted governmental bill to start to increase the defence budget from 2016 to 2020 with a total of 10.2 billion Sw. Croner for this period will mean an increase of 12 pre cent. This is regarded as a necessaty after many years of cuts. During 2016 the practical implementation process on ground level has started on what is necessary to focus on and solve first. One important priority is training and personnal materiel to have all battle groups combat fit, as Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist said in his speech in the annual Society and Defence – Folk och Försvar – conference in Sälen in Dalarna on 11th of January 2016. Important in this context is also – as already was said in the report of 17 February 2015 and the joint press conference between the Swedish and Finnish Defence Ministers (Peter Hultqvist, Sweden and Carl Haglund, Finland) – to deepen the efforts of closer, long-term cooperation between Sweden’s and Finland’s defence forces – air, sea and ground – are relevant here.That includes the possibilities to act together in crisis or war. In the same context, due to an agreement on 14th of January 2016, there is a similar but less extensive cooperation between Denmark and Sweden for access to each other’s air and naval bases and the exchange of confidential information. More on this later. From 1920s to 2010s – armament and disarmament From a historical perspective, what is now taking place is unique in several ways. When in the 1920s, Sweden ran down its defence, this was done while the country’s leadership – not least the former Socialist prime minister and Nobel Peace Prize Hjalmar Branting – worked actively to match this rundown with vigorous activity for international disarmament and conflict resolution. During the Cold War, Sweden continued working for international disarmament, this time in parallel with an extensive renovation of its weak World War II military defence. Something similar has occurred in recent years. In the 2000s, Sweden disarmed its defences but at the same time became rather passive on international disarmament and mutual security, according to many scholars such as Professor Bo Huldt and others with extensive experience in this area. From the Peace Research Institute SIPRI Yearbook 2014, it is clear that, during the years 2009–2013, Sweden – with Fredrik Reinfeldt of the centre-right Moderat party, as prime minister – invested $ 6.4 billion per year on average on military defence, which was a decrease of seven per cent compared with the period 2004–2008 when the annual military expenditure stood at $ 6.9 billion. This took place while no Swedish initiative whatsoever was taken to promote international disarmament, according to the SIPRI Yearbook. For comparison, we can look at neighbouring Norway which did the opposite, increasing its military spending by eleven percent over the two periods, from an average of $ 6.6 billion per year (2004–2008) to $ 7.3 billion per year during 2009–2013. At the same time, Norway was internationally more active than Sweden – with a driving role, according to SIPRI Yearbook, in the agreement on the international arms trade, on various mediation efforts (the Colombian conflict, etc.), for an international conference on nuclear weapons’ humanitarian effects and on the transport of toxic biochemical products from Syria. But following the change of government in Sweden in October 2014, the submarine violations of Swedish waters in autumn 2014, and a general change in the climate of debate on defence in Sweden, a different and new order is being established. This is already clearly noticeable from the declaration in October by the new government (led by Stefan Löfven), in various media statements by Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist, from the annual Folk och Försvar (Society and Defence) conference in January 2015 at the Mountain Hotel in Sälen, Dalarna, and in the context of the major Swedish–Finnish defence cooperation agreement published on 17 February 2015. The process of upgrade of Swedish military, combat capacity has started As Sweden’s Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist said already at a seminar on 5 March 2015 in Stockholm, “Russia’s military build-up and increased exercise and intelligence activities in our region requires as a minimum that Sweden now increases its military capability.” This he has since then repeated even stronger on the annual Society and Defence – Folk and Försvar – conference in Sälen in Dalarna on 11th and 14th of January 2016 as well as when in different sessions in the Swedish parliament when the Defence budget and frame agreement for the period 2016-2020 was debated in April and June 2015. An agreement that in short means an increase from 43.4 billion year 2016 to 50.1 billion in 2020. A total increase of 12 per cent on a upgraded Swedish defence. Sweden’s Armed Forces must now “be restored to give priority to our own national defence; any international operations will be decided on a case by case basis” (Peter Hultqvist). We are now in “the beginning of a process to build up our military, combat ability; make every battle group combat fit, invest in new and upgraded equipment – combat materiel for soldiers as well as mor advanced weapons, upgrade old versions, our logistical capacity and against cyper warfare”, said Peter Hultqvist in a speech in Stockholm on 10th of Februay 2016. It is also important to now focus on and start a process to upgrade Sweden`s civil defence, neglected as it has been for too many years now. – Defence Cooperation is also being expanded with Finland, and partly also with Norway and Denmark. The EU solidarity clause requiring interpretations and special government decisions in each case is important. And we cannot leave the Baltic countries in the lurch, according to Peter Hultqvist (5 March 2015). Here, as Hultqvist said in his speech in Munich on 13th of February 2016, “Nato has a key role to ensure stability and to deter threats in the Baltic Sea.” - - “Sweden, as a Nato-partner (but not member of Nato), welcomes the increased defence measures taken by Nato in the Baltic Sea Region”, Hultqvist also stated in his Munich-speech. “As for the NATO question, the Socialist government line is a cooperative approach, but a rejection of membership. We do not participate in NATO’s collective defence with mutual obligations,” Defence Minister Hultqvist has said several times in the parliament and also in Sälen in January 2016. The rising political tensions around Europe and the new arms race in the Swedish neighbourhood increase the need to have modern and efficient Armed Forces with the ability to protect and ward off both the military and the IT threats across the whole country. According to the defence agreement of 17 April 2015, it is clear that Sweden will step by step will increase it`s defence spending from 43.4 billion 2016 to 50.1 billion by year 2020, starting with an increase with 1.3 billion to a total of 43.4 billion 2016, increase with another 1.9 billion in 2017, 2.2 billion in 2018, 2.3 billion in 2019 and then 2.5 billion in 2020. . In the near future – beyond the current steps taken in this defence agreement between the Swedish government and three of the opposition parties – there is the need to progressively increase efforts to strengthen also the civil defence and to supplement Sweden`s military cooperation with Finland building on the intention that we both have the possibility to act together in case of crisis or war, as Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist said both in Sälen on the annual Society and Defence conference in Jauary 11th and on the Munich MSC-conference on 13th of February 2016. On 14th of January 2016 Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist signed an agreement with his Danish Defence Minister Peter Christensen about a deeper cooperation on defence – exchange of information, safe communication, defence training etc – and at the same time handed over the chairmanship in Nordefco, the Nordic defence cooperation. This agreement with Denmark - little less far reaching than the agreement with Finland – is another practical example of a even more and tighter cooperation between the Nordic countries on defence and security and has good possibilities in the future to be implemented with other countries, as Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist said at Arlanda airport when meeting with his Danish partner Peter Christensen. Island is also now a partner in the Cross Border Training agreement, which in practice now means that all Nordic countries and territories now are possible to use in air training cooperation. North European Testrange, NEAT, in Sweden, is now the biggest war training area in Europe with 24 000 square kilometre. Nato has since several years had gradually bigger military combat training with - since this Cold Response started in 2006 – around 16 000 soldiers involved. The different challenges we face in the Swedish and European neighbourhood – especially the bad consequences of Daesh/IS in Iraq and Syria and the large flow of refugees – clearly indicates that we will have a long term of destabilization. We need to tackle the causes of this – both with military, diplomatic and other means – and step by step restore confidence, stability and peace in Europe and gradually so also in Middle East to be able to tackle the causes of millions of people fleeing and become refugees in poor conditions. Russia`s illegal annexation of Crimea and the Russian involvement in eastern Ukraine is, as Defence Minister Hultqvist said in Munich (13th of February 2016), another great challenge to the European security order and can and should not be accepted. In order to be better prepared for challenges now and in the years to come Sweden now is in a process of step by step upgrading and reinforcing our military and civil capacity. That includes deepening of Sweden´s ties and cooperation with partners in other Nordic countries and with Nato from the platform of non-military alignment in the way which have been reported here. 2016-02-28,Stockholm Robert Björkenwall, freelance journalist and researcher robert.bjorken@telia.com (A more complete servey about Swedish Defence and Security will be published in Defence & Security, Horn Publishing, Oslo, Maj 2016)


Post a Comment

<< Home