Minister for Defence Peter Hultqvist’s speech at Georgia’s Army Hall
Georgia’s Army Hall, 6 March 2018.
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Dear Ministers, Ambassadors, distinguished guests, officers, ladies and gentlemen – it is a pleasure to address you. I would like to thank Minister Izoria for the opportunity to speak here today.
The bilateral relationship between Georgia and Sweden was established already in 1918 and in that same year the first Georgian embassy opened in Stockholm. The bilateral relationship in the area of defence reaches back to 2009.
In 2008 Georgia experienced the Russian invasion. Let me start by pointing to the fact that this was the first serious attack on the European security order after the end of the cold war.
Six years later came the illegal Russian annexation of Crimea and the Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine. For Sweden the rule-based European security order is of fundamental interest. The right of every country to make its own foreign and security policy decisions without veto from other states is a cornerstone of this order.
My visit yesterday to Ukraine and today to Georgia is important, not the least because we want to show our support for the two countries that have suffered from Russian aggression.
I am pleased that the Swedish-Georgian relations have developed in the defence area. Last year I had the privilege of welcoming my colleague defence minister Levan Izoria to Stockholm and today I visit Georgia as the first Swedish minister of defence ever.
The exchange of experience with the Georgian Armed forces is appreciated and valuable to us. Also, the Swedish support to the reform of the security sector in Georgia is an important element in our bilateral cooperation.
In particular, I am pleased to have a Swedish instructor in place at the NATO Joint Training and Evaluation Centre supporting the training of the Georgian armed forces.
With that background, I would like to present Swedish perspectives on the security situation in Europe and our view on how we should respond to them.
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Today's Europe faces fundamental challenges. Continued high unemployment, instability in our neighbourhood and the challenges posed by the recent migration crisis. At the same time, the EU is dealing with the consequences of Britain's decision to leave the European Union. On top of this, we see nationalist and populist movements in Europe, including in Sweden and other countries around the Baltic sea.
The complexity and scale of the challenges at hand means that no European state can face them alone – the need for European cooperation is greater than ever.
The current security situation calls for all European countries to engage in creating a Europe that is united and has the capacity to take responsibility for its own security. This is why Sweden was an active partner in the creation of the European Global Strategy and why we have welcomed the creation of the Permanent Structured Cooperation, PESCO.
In these challenging times European unity and solidarity combined with a strong transatlantic link is key. This is of great importance, not the least since Europe is facing a more provocative and destabilising Russia that has lowered the threshold for using military force. Russian military aggression and Russian violation of international law is unacceptable. Russian actions challenge the European security order that we stand for.
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For over a decade, Russia has invested heavily in modernising and rearming its armed forces. The military capability has increased considerably and this development will continue. By investing a substantial part on national defence in the federal budget, Russia sends a clear message about its priorities.
As I said earlier, the Russian invasion of Georgia and Russia's support to the self-proclaimed republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and support to so-called separatists in eastern Ukraine are the greatest challenges to the European security order.
There can be no business as usual with Russia as long as this behaviour continues. Russia remains aggressive and its actions increase tensions in our vicinity. This is not only manifested in military action, but also in disinformation and propaganda operations.
The Russian actions do not only constitute an aggression on Georgia and Ukraine but also a threat to the right for every country, including Russia's neighbours, to make their own policy choices. This is a cornerstone in the rule-based world order and the European security order. Therefore, the Russian actions are a concern to us all and make our response all the more important.
Along with the Black Sea, the significance of the Baltic Sea Region to European security has increased. Russia has over the past few years showed a more challenging behaviour including violations of its neighbour's territorial integrity. The military-strategic situation has deteriorated, and the region has become less secure. Russia is clearly seeking to increase influence over what it considers as its area of interest.
Parallel to this, it is important to remember that the Russian aggression comes from the current regime. Sweden continues to maintain that people to people contacts and an active diplomacy are important tools for our long-term relation with Russia. This includes seeking dialogue on issues where we can agree.
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However, on the national level, every country must take its own responsibility when it comes to national defence. The Swedish defence policy has broad support in Parliament. Our key priority is to enhance the warfighting capability of the Armed Forces. This also includes the development of a modern "total defence" that includes both the military and the civilian defence. Reinforcing our national defence goes hand in hand with deepening our bilateral and multilateral defence cooperation.
In March 2017, the Swedish government decided to reactivate conscription. The military units are essentially fully manned and made up of both full-time and part-time employees as well as conscripts. It means that our Armed Forces will have a mixed system with both conscripts and professional soldiers, sailors and squad leaders.
The modern conscription is gender neutral and will include both women and men. We start this year with 4 000 that will do conscription service. I believe that this will increase the number of women in our armed forces and thereby making better use of the whole population in strengthening our warfighting capabilities.
Sweden is increasing defence spending to reinforce our national military capability. Up until 2020 the Swedish government, with a broad support in Parliament, is increasing defence spending, including civilian defence, with a total of approximately 2,6 billion euros. This constitutes the largest increase in defence spending in more than two decades.
The most important priority for me as Minister for Defence is to strengthen our national defence by increasing our capability to resist an armed attack. By doing this, we raise the threshold for conflicts in our vicinity, and as a result, increase stability and predictability in our region.
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Our policy of military non-alignment requires an active, broad and responsible foreign and security policy combined with enhanced defence cooperation and credible national defence capabilities. Sweden firmly believes that security is best built together with others. This is a core principle in Swedish security and defence policy.
The cooperation between Sweden and Finland holds a special place in both our countries' security and defence policies. It aims at increasing effect and efficiency through combined use of resources, increased interoperability and a closer dialogue on common challenges. The cooperation also includes planning for scenarios beyond peace time.
Considering our common history, our shared culture and values as well as a common geostrategic position, Sweden attaches high importance to the Nordic Defence Cooperation – NORDEFCO - as well as our cooperation with the Baltic States. By acting together in a predictable and consistent way, we contribute to peace and security in our part of the world. We also work closely with the United States, the United Kingdom, Poland and Germany.
The European Union is Sweden's most important foreign policy arena. Sweden is actively seeking to strengthen the Common Security and Defence Policy while keeping its intergovernmental character. From a Swedish perspective, we see two main objectives with the quickly evolving defence package: strengthened common security and defence policy, and enhanced EU cohesion.
The deteriorated security situation in our close vicinity has increased the importance of Sweden's partnership with NATO. Political dialogue on common security challenges and how to counter them is essential. In November 2017, our status as member of the Enhanced Opportunities Programme was renewed by the North Atlantic Council (NAC).
Sweden welcomes the U.S. and NATO's decisions to strengthen the security of its Eastern allies. The European Security Initiative and the Enhanced Forward Presence are crucial efforts to Baltic Sea security and regional stability.
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The Swedish defence policy has a strengthened focus on national defence. We develop a modern "total defence" that includes both the military and the civilian defence.
We define in Swedish law, total defence as the preparations and planning required to prepare Sweden for war. When the government has declared the highest alert, all societal functions are defined as total defence, which consists of military defence and civil defence. In accordance, the Parliament, the Government, government authorities, municipalities, private enterprises, voluntary defence organizations as well as individuals are all part of the total defence.
In 2017, we added resources to ensure that municipalities, county councils, county administrative boards and Government authorities responsible for civilian defence are able to complete and intensify the civil defence planning.
The defence bill also states that civil defence will be built on the crisis management structures, complemented with measures required in wartime. Notable key factors are for example transforming society to manage warlike conditions, mobilise society and the military and civil resources to strengthen the defence efforts. Also, individual responsibility is an important part of the aggregated capability in society to withstand and mitigate the consequences of serious disturbances in the functionality of society.
Without a functioning civil defence and a functioning civil-military coordination, the military defence cannot perform its tasks with full effect in a crisis situation. This involves, among other things, the ability to deal with issues such as information and cybersecurity, health care, uphold order and security, transports and infrastructure, and long-term sustainability of the society in stages of readiness and war.
This must be closely coordinated so that efforts on the civilian side harmonise with what is happening on the military side. In a civil and military interaction, a coordinated approach to defence and contingency planning should be reached.
The development of the total defence also includes recreating a psychological defence in order to ensure an open and democratic society with freedom of opinion and free media.
One key aspect in developing the total defence include training and education, information and exercises. Thus, we will conduct a large total defence exercise in 2020.
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To sum up, we are living in a world with increasing insecurities, where institutions and relationships we considered stable are now under increasing pressure. We all have a responsibility to do our utmost to ensure peace, security and stability, on the basis of our different security choices.
Thank you for listening. I am ready to take your questions.