Kingdom of Sweden

Owing to a fortunate mix of politics, defence and geography, Sweden has been at peace for close on 200 years now. Few countries in Europe have been spared war for such a long period. For two centuries, or since the end of the Napoleonic wars, Sweden pursued a policy of neutrality, that is, non-involvement in armed interstate conflicts. After the break-up of the Soviet Union, the accession of Central European countries to the EU and NATO, and Sweden’s own accession to the EU in 1995 – the country gradually started to transform its defense policy.

By 2013, from Sweden’s point of view, the post-Cold War strategic timeout in Europe was coming to an end. The international environment was reverting to a condition in which the use of force among states, including countries in the Baltic Sea region, was no longer an improbable scenario. Sweden believed that crises or conflicts that could directly or indirectly affect the country might potentially occur in Northern Europe in the future. This perception stemmed from: (1) rising uncertainty in Northern Europe (the Baltic Sea and High North regions) where new possibilities were emerging for extraction and transportation of energy resources, maritime transport and fishing; (2) the reforms and modernisation of Russia’s Armed Forces, and the lowering of the country’s threshold for the use of force in its immediate neighborhood.

Sweden is a relatively large European country, about the size of California, with a coastline of 1,245 miles, land boundaries of 1,360 miles, and a population of 8.3 million. It is bordered by Norway to the West, Finland to the northeast, and the Baltic Sea to the south. Extending almost 1,000 miles from north to south, Sweden occupies a critical region on NATO's northern flank that is longer in extent than the Central Front in Europe.

Parliament and Government have reduced the demands on the Swedish Armed Forces capability to complete tasks from a medium-term, i.e. five to ten year, perspective. This is because the Swedish Armed Forces, Parliament and Government all assess the risks of armed attack against Sweden as very small in the foreseeable future. However crises or incidents, that calls for the use of military resources can also arise in the region, and in the longer terms the threat of a military attack can never be discounted.

The Swedish Armed Forces face a large number of challenges. One of the most important was to continue restructuring and to maintain increasing international ambitions despite financial cutbacks. The demands placed on the Swedish Armed Forces´ by the Swedish parliament and government are largely met, but at a cost of lower goals in training activities. A number of units are not able to perform large-scale exercises, with the exception of the Nordic Battlegroup rapid response force that was on standby the first six months of 2008. There was a strong focus on developing the Nordic Battlegroup at several units. This force was also highly significant in the Swedish Armed Forces´ transformation towards a more mission-based approach.

The Swedish Armed Forces have made a high quality contribution to international missions in line with parliamentary resolutions. Swedish units deployed in Afghanistan, Chad and Kosovo. During the course of 2008, the Swedish Armed Forces also started planning a new naval mission off the coast of Somalia. The Swedish Armed Forces continued development on the system for personnel provision. In line with the defence committee and national service committee thinking, this included planning for an all voluntary force. The Swedish Armed Forces also worked intensively on developing and strengthening financial management and control. These changes, together with the proposals the Swedish Armed Forces presented to the government on 30 January 2009, enable the creation of an organisation and strike capability in line with the increasing demands of the state authorities.

A usable and accessible defence force will only need a limited number of soldiers in continuous service in the Army forces. This will make it possible for most of the soldiers in the Army to be employed on a contract basis. However, the Navy and Air Force will be largely made up of permanent units comprising regularly employed soldiers, sailors, airmen and officers.

In March 2010 the Swedish Armed Forces (Försvarsmakten) proposed scaling down the country's defences, closing at least one air force base, eliminating one troop regiment and halving training resources for home defences. The reductions will lead to 800 million kronor ($112 million) in savings, which will be invested in the military's transition to a professional army.

In July 2010 Sweden's compulsory military service scheme came to an end, replaced by a voluntary system, which was expected not to require the same training resources. The government had been criticized for plans to close air force bases and regiments, which opponents said will leave the country vulnerable to attack. A freeze on closures was ordered until after the general election in September 2010. The most likely candidates for closure would be troop regiments in southern and western regions as well as the F17 air force base at Ronneby in southern Sweden. Northern Sweden was expected to keep the F21 base in Luleå.

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