The Swedish Defence Commission submits its report on Sweden’s Security Policy to Minister for Defence Pål Jonson
On 19 June 2023, the Swedish Defence Commission submitted its report on Sweden’s Security Policy to Minister for Defence Pål Jonson. The Defence Commission concludes that the world is at a crossroads. The rules-based international order is being challenged by autocratic states such as Russia and China. A large-scale war in Europe is a reality, and Russia has set a course for a long-term conflict with the West. An aggressive Russia should form the basis for the long-term development of Swedish total defence. Sweden must have the capability to defend its territory against an armed attack as a part of NATO’s collective defence.
In the report, the Swedish Defence Commission presents its assessment of the global security environment and consequences for Sweden’s defence and security policy. The Commission also outlines priorities regarding Sweden’s upcoming NATO membership.
The Defence Commission concludes that the rules-based international order established after the Second World War and the end of the Cold War is under threat. Several states are challenging international norms and aspects of the rules-based order. Multilateral cooperation and institutions are increasingly being undermined. Russia and China are the driving forces behind these developments. They are pushing for a multipolar world order and aim to weaken the influence of the West and the United States globally. Democracy, human rights, and the rule of law are regarded as existential threats by autocratic and revisionist states like Russia and China. They view these core principles as threats to the survival of their regimes.
A large-scale war rages in Europe due to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. The impacts of the war are not limited to Ukraine. Russia has long considered itself in conflict with the entire Western world. The Defence Commission sees Russia as the most serious long-term threat to Europe’s and Sweden’s security. The report states that China does not pose a direct military threat to Sweden. However, China’s actions and increasing geopolitical competition are creating a more vulnerable situation for small and medium-sized states. The rapidly changing security situation in the Indo-Pacific region is of great importance to relations between international powers and global stability. A major war in the region cannot be ruled out. Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent acceleration of cooperation between China and Russia have further highlighted the link between Europe’s and Asia’s security. The increasing geopolitical power competition is making it more difficult to deal with global threats such as climate change, pandemics, attacks on strategic infrastructure, terrorism, violent extremism, and organised crime.
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, violations of international law, disregard for the European security order and opposition to free, open, and democratic societies have significantly deteriorated the security situation in Sweden’s immediate neighbourhood and the rest of Europe. Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and China’s increased territorial claims show that conflicts over territory by military means are once again a reality. As a result, Swedish security policy is undergoing a profound change. Sweden’s forthcoming NATO membership is the biggest change in Swedish defence and security policy in over 200 years.
According to the Defence Commission, it is in Sweden’s vital national security interests to defend Sweden’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. We are ultimately prepared to use armed force to defend our country, our people, our democracy, our freedom, and our way of life. Swedish membership in NATO will enhance Sweden’s security. It will also contribute to strengthening the security and stability in our immediate neighbourhood and the Euro-Atlantic region as a whole.
As a future NATO member, Sweden will work to uphold the European security order and international law, based on the UN Charter. As an Ally, Sweden will actively work to maintain cohesion within the alliance. NATO membership will strengthen Swedish defence capabilities through additional opportunities to cooperate with Allies in times of peace, crisis and war. Sweden’s defence capability will be part of NATO’s collective defence, and Sweden will contribute to NATO by strengthening the Alliance’s overall defence capability. We must have the capability to defend ourselves against an armed attack and defend our territory within the framework of NATO’s collective defence. This also includes defence measures that may not be directly requested by the Alliance but are important for the overall credibility and capability of Sweden’s national defence.
The Swedish Defence Commission’s work is still in progress. In a final report due on 26 April 2024, the Commission will present proposals on the direction and development of Sweden’s total defence, covering both military and civil defence, for the next Defence Bill period.