Sweden's Defence Reform

For the past 200 years Sweden has maintained a policy of neutrality. The nation had effectively used cooperation with other states to ensure its security. As security policies throughout Europe have changed, they have caused a subsequent change in the way Sweden approaches its own defence. Now the government has developed reform within its system of armed forces.

Sweden makes a goal of promoting peace while securing international involvement throughout the Baltic region. Sverker Göransson, General of the Swedish Army, notoriously noted that if Sweden were to be attacked, it would only be capable of defending itself for one week before needing assistance from foreign parties. This incapability has been met with ridicule from other Nordic and Baltic nations. Although very active in partnership, Sweden would not be able to rely on help from NATO in the event of an attack as it is not a member. While subject to criticism at home, Swedish defence policy has been praised by U.S. and Belgian government experts who see it as a model of military professionalism. The Swedish armed forces have transformed from a large, poorly-equipped entity to a smaller but technologically-advanced unit.

Sweden’s Ministry of Defence has existed in the same state since 1920. It was one of the first non-participating countries to join the United Nations. After World War II, defence policy changes throughout Europe led to an increase in international relations within the Ministry of Defence. The country followed an armed neutrality policy which was combined with secret cooperation with the US and NATO in exchange for guaranteed support against Soviet attacks. Many Swedish military officials were not made aware of this cooperation. This secrecy led to the misbalance within the Swedish armed forces. The country changed the armed forces to make the system compatible with the goal of participating in international crisis management. This resulted in a diminished ability to defend its own territory, a trait which defined Sweden’s basis for neutrality.

In Sweden’s Budget Bill, the government intends to work toward achieving a more functional defence that can be deployed whenever necessary. Defence projects are being reviewed, showing the government's concern with making the armed forces more effective. The plan allows for an increase in resources for peace-support operations in the military. The goal is to provide guidance for Swedish involvement in international support and national security operations. The plan will have long-term effects and provides support for civil and military operations. This defence transformation involves moving from a defence aimed against invasion to an operational defence. The Swedish armed forces are therefore implementing extensive reforms, in which they will be given an entirely new structure. This is necessary to develop the best defence policy possible.

From Sweden’s perspective, the Cold War strategies of neutrality are ending. The nation now faces the very real possibly of using military force at some point in the future. Crises and conflicts around the Baltic region and other Nordic nations could also directly affect Sweden. Unfortunately, many of these nations also depend on foreign support in emergencies.

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