Increase our military capabilities
For a long time, any warnings or notions of the increasingly hostile Russia under Putin was denied or subdued. Consequentially, Sweden disarmed itself almost completely in a time when global and local security threats were in fact growing.
Our task is not only to recover what we have lost in arms-building so far but to also keep up the pace with the political aggression that is developing as of now. Russia has since the early 21st century been using rhetoric, energy policies, propaganda, psychological warfare, as well as its trade policies and military strength not as means of peace, but rather to scare other countries. In both Georgia and Ukraine, Russia has shown that the country is prepared to use military force in order to fulfil political goals whenever it is deemed necessary.
The great military strategist Carl von Clausewitz once formulated this reality with the notion that war is the continuation of politics. Not only is this a statement about the nature of war itself but also that politics has the same purpose as war. Another conclusion to be drawn from that statement is that we must be able to defend ourselves not only from the means of war, but indeed from all kinds of political instruments used to manipulate or exert hostility towards us.
Now there is a war in Europe in which all these means of politics and war are used simultaneously at different levels. Russian warfare in Ukraine threatens European borders and the European order of peace. The comprehensive Russian arms programme and large-scale military exercises reveals the desire to quickly attain a greater military capability, and an equally great desire to use this capability.
The arms build-up and exercises are taking place in order to enable the use of military force in the Arctic, Northern Europe, the Baltic Sea and the Arctic Ocean. All through it is intended to increase offensive military capabilities, be it missiles, amphibious or airborne forces, as well as advanced warfare with armoured units, air forces, air support units, special operations forces and electronic warfare.
This is not only about war in its classical meaning. Influence, presence and demonstration of willingness to use military force, economic warfare, strategic commodities, cyber warfare, psychological operations, and provocations, ambitions to expand the sphere of interest and influence as well as behaviour intended to for others accept the current situation as a grand fait accompli.
Sweden needs a stronger defence in order to meet the Russian military threat having developed all the while we have been disarming. We need it to counter tomorrow’s stronger and more offensive Russian military and we need it to face all the threats that are now a reality and not just scenarios that can be up- or downgraded to suit ones needs.
The propaganda, the psychological operations and disinformation is happening right now. It aims to legitimize a warfare that lacks support in international law and the European order of peace. Further, it aims to legitimize Putin’s support of Assad’s terror as a war on terrorism.
The current capacity build-up is also aims to disrupt the long-lasting peacefulness of the Baltic Sea. The activity of Russian warships in the Baltic Sea creates dangerous situations and intends to force other countries in the region to act according to the will of Russia. Corresponding behaviour has been noted below surface and in the airspace above.
When Moscow claims that other countries defensive capabilities constitute a threat to Russia they mean that our capabilities restrict the possibilities for Russia to exert influence abroad. When Swedish opinion makers state that we should ”avoid to provoke Russia” by increasing defence spending or by discussing a possible NATO membership, it is a sign that Moscow has won a battle in the ongoing war.
The wars against Georgia and Ukraine were preceded by a vast warfare on other levels than the military one. These were economic warfare, boycotts, military manifestations, support of separatists, propaganda and rhetoric through Russian and indigenous media as a show of force as well as overall destabilizing measures. When this turned out insufficient to bend the will of the countries, military means entered the game.
Our ability to counter the threats launched against us and others today will increase the threshold for tomorrow’s threats. The lesser our ability for countermeasures, the larger the risk that those threats are realised. In other words: what our current military capacity allows us to do will affect what threats will come tomorrow. As we neglect today’s situation, tomorrow will turn out much worse. And if we continue the policy of security isolationism we will be all the more alone tomorrow, especially if the Kremlin gets its will.
The ones who believe that we can postpone increases in defence spending indefinitely are making the same mistake as when they told us that the growing Russian threat and military build-up was a simple modernisation. Sweden needs to join NATO, thus closing the door for tomorrow’s threats to be realised. We need to increase our defence spending to the recommended NATO standard and in accordance to what the changes in our vicinity demands.
To increase our military capabilities in order to protect Sweden and Sweden’s interests, we need to increase our defence spending to 2 percent of GDP. Historically, these 2 percent has been a norm to show the world that Sweden takes responsibility, that we will and can uphold the standard of our defence, and that we can develop capabilities to meet tomorrow’s challenges.
By aiming for the 2 percent goal we do not only show that we take the NATO debate seriously, but that we are prepared to take responsibility for the security in our own neighbourhood. Thus, it is only when we take responsibility that we can expect the same from others.