Sweden and Nordic Defense: Stepping Up Their Game


2015-03-11 With the return of direct defense considerations for the Balts and the Nordics, key states like Sweden are rethinking their approach to defense.

In an interview in Copenhagen last year with Hans Tino Hansen, the founder and CEO of Risk Intelligence, the shift was the focus of attention:

Question: I would like to start by discussing Sweden and its reactions to Russian actions.

The Swedes clearly are taking Russian actions quite seriously.  For example, they announced recently that they are increasing their defense budget by nearly $900 million per annum and adding new cruise missile capabilities to their aircraft.

What is your sense of the Swedish dynamic?

HTH: I think that what has happened in Sweden is like with any other Western European country.

They have been reducing their defense to such an extent that they are at the lowest level possible to actually withhold or maintain a credible defense – or even below.They got their first wake up call last year when Russian air exercises were targeted against Swedish installations.

And they didn’t actually have the 24/7 Quick Alert Reaction (QRA) fighter capability to show sovereignty against the Russians.

Ironically, the Russian planes were intercepted by Danish F16s operating from Lithuania during the NATO Air-Policing mission in the Baltic countries.

The second wake-up call is of course Ukraine and the Crimea. They have increasingly been talking about building a defense that can actually, interact with NATO in defending the Baltic area. Not only the Baltic area as a sea area, or a region, but also actually within the Baltic Republics. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania themselves.

Of course, Sweden is not a member of NATO. Sweden has always said that they are not necessarily neutral, but they are alliance-free, and that is not necessarily the same thing.

We also know from the Cold War that they actually worked very closely together with the Danes, and the Germans, and the Americans, and the Norwegians. We could say that it’s actually going back in some ways to how it was before.

This year Sweden is chairing the Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO) group.

According to the Swedish MoD website:

The Nordic countries agree that much can be gained from defence and security cooperation. The aim of NORDEFCO is to strengthen participating nations’ national defence and improve their defence capability.

“Nordic defence cooperation is a priority for Sweden. NORDEFCO aims to strengthen each nation’s defence capability and promote common security,” says Minister for Defence Peter Hultqvist…..

The scope of Nordic cooperation is increasing each year. The Swedish Armed Forces estimates that Sweden is currently participating in more than 130 cooperation activities with one or more Nordic countries.


The objective of the Swedish Chairmanship is to deepen security policy dialogue between the Nordic countries and strengthen the joint Nordic voice in security and defence policy.

In addition to this, Sweden wants to seek further cooperation concerning international operations, review the potential for closer cooperation on air and maritime surveillance, review the potential for cooperation concerning equipment, and expand cooperation regarding Nordic military exercises and training.

“International developments have demonstrated the necessity of close Nordic security policy dialogue and concrete military cooperation. Increased cooperation will enable us to strengthen our common security and the military capability of each country and find cost-effective and practical solutions,” says Mr Hultqvist.

Sweden’s priorities during its Chairmanship of NORDEFCO in 2015 are in the following four areas:

Policy – strengthen Nordic cooperation through increased information sharing and deepen cooperation with the Baltic States.

Capability development – enhance cooperation between the Nordic countries by e.g. strengthening air and maritime surveillance.

Armaments – identify common systems and legislation concerning armament purchasing and develop guidelines.

International operations – establish a common approach at political and military level to facilitate joint Nordic contributions.

There is broad political consensus in Sweden to further intensify and broaden Nordic cooperation with the aim of strengthening Sweden’s military capabilities for national and international crisis management. Developing cooperation with the Baltic countries is another political objective.

“Sweden is taking over the Chairmanship of NORDEFCO in 2015 with the ambition of deepening both Nordic and Nordic-Baltic defence cooperation,” says Mr Hultqvist.

A practical task being pursued by Sweden is an improved working relationship with Finland in defense cooperation as well.

In February 2015, a new report was issued by the Finnish Defence Forces and the Swedish Armed forces exploring ways to deepend the defense relationship between the two countries.

For example, the report highlights the importance of enhanced airpower integration.

The Finnish and Swedish Air Forces’ vision is to form a mutually supported and partly integrated Finnish-Swedish air force able to enhance regional security by providing air power.

Deep cooperation would confer on both air forces improved capabilities for operations alone and together under all circumstances as well as capabilities for close cooperation during peacetime.

The activities cover all air force functions and branches, joint efforts and cooperation requirements to support land and maritime operations, and conversely, the means of army and navy contribution to air operations and an integrated air defence capability.

Three mutually supporting capability aims have been identified.

These capability aims mirror tasks and milestones in the respective functional areas.

The aim of a common air operations capability is defined as the full spectrum of air operation capabilities in order to achieve air supremacy, contribute to providing joint effects and provide air support to land and maritime operations within an Area of Operation (AO).

The aim of a common base operations capability is defined as an ability to use main and forward operating bases and provide cross service to support quick force deployment and dispersed operations within an AO.

“Partly integrated or integrated” means that both air forces are interoperable and able to work together to build up common air operation or combined unit for international operations.

Both air forces are able to give neighbour nation support for other nation’s aircraft and it’s possible to build up common operational picture.

The aim of a common command and control (C2) capability is defined as ability to command and control air and base operations and manage sensors and communications in order to provide situational awareness and support for analysed decisions at different levels.

A key enabler of these aims is a secure communications network and associated information exchange equipment.

To reach the desired aims and objectives described above several areas or actions for cooperation were identified (including secure communications).

These areas consist of education, training and exercising, and some are enablers while others are milestones that boost operational capabilities.

However, all areas lead towards the aims and end state, either alone or linked together.

Finish and Swedish Defense Cooperation, 2015