‘Everyone has duty to defend Sweden’
May 22, 2018 (DESPARDES) — Sweden has begun distributing ‘be prepared for war’ leaflet to all 4.8m homes for the first time in more than half a century, saying: “Sweden is safer than many other countries but threats exist.”
Furthermore, the booklet makes it clear that all fit Swedes and foreign residents would be expected to play their part should a crisis occur, as everyone living in Sweden has a “duty to contribute to total defense,” which, depending on an individual’s health, could mean conscription to the armed forces, or to civil or governmental agencies.
Last March the neutral country voted to reintroduce military conscription by 1 July after struggling to fill army ranks on a voluntary basis, citing increased Russian military activity in the Baltics as one of the reasons for the policy U-turn.
Its defense minister had said the move was in response to a deteriorating security environment in Europe. “We are in a context where Russia has annexed Crimea,” Peter Hultqvist, the minister, told AFP. “They are doing more exercises in our immediate vicinity.”
The 20-page Defense pamphlet, illustrated with pictures of sirens, warplanes and families fleeing their homes, shows how population can prepare in event of attack and contribute to country’s ‘total defense’.
The new pamphlet prepares the population for cyber and terror attacks and climate change, and includes a page on identifying fake news, and explains how people can secure basic needs such as food, water and heat, what warning signals mean, where to find bomb shelters and how to contribute to Sweden’s “total defense”.
“Although Sweden is safer than many other countries, there are still threats to our security and independence,” the brochure says. “If you are prepared, you are contributing to improving the ability of the country to cope with a major strain.”
The publication comes as the debate on security – and the possibility of joining Nato – has intensified in Sweden in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and recent incursions into Swedish airspace and territorial waters by Russian planes and submarines.
Back in 2014, Wilhelm Unge, the chief counter-intelligence analyst with Swedish intelligence agency Säpo, warned reporters that “Russia is the biggest intelligence agent in Sweden.”
“They are interested in really everything — political, economic, technical and military information,” Unge said, according to Sveriges Radio. “It is one of the few countries that has the very broad intelligence interest in Sweden.” The analyst also pointed to training missions the Russian fight planes practiced just outside the Swedish border last year, which happened at least twice in 2013: Missions that appeared to be designed to remind Sweden that Russia had the ability to attack its neighbors, if not the will.
“You don’t carry out these kinds of things unless you can actually conceive carrying out an attack in the future,” Unge reportedly explained.
Sweden and Finland have histories of conflict with Russia, and both are located in strategically important places for Moscow– the Swedish island of Gotland is just 155 miles from Kaliningrad, Russia’s European enclave, while Finland shares a 833 mile border with the country.
Both countries have followed a committed policy of non-alignment in more recent years. This policy of non-alignment is one of reason that the two countries are not members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). But Putin’s aggression, however, is making the two countries reconsidering their position, The Washington Post reported in April 2014.
A Russian military attack on Sweden or Finland would be extraordinary though — few people seem to think that idea is credible. For example, Fiona Hill of the Brookings Institution said the stories seemed a bit “overblown,” while Mark Galeotti of New York University said he found the idea of military incursions into Sweden and Finland “wholly implausible.”
That said, even if military conflict seems unlikely, the stories from Sweden and Finland do seem to represent something else: How non-alignment appears to be becoming an increasingly difficult position in a the emerging multi-polar scenario.
Dan Eliasson of the Swedish civil contingencies agency, which is in charge of the pamphlet project, says “Society is vulnerable, so we need to prepare ourselves as individuals,”. “There’s also an information deficit in terms of concrete advice, which we aim to provide.”
The online version of the booklet, available in 13 languages, can be found on a website designed “for those who want to monitor the development and planning of Sweden’s total defense.”
Similar leaflets were first distributed in neutral Sweden in 1943, at the height of the second world war. Updates were issued regularly to the general public until 1961, and then to local and national government officials until 1991.
The country has also begun reversing military spending cuts and last year staged its biggest military exercises in nearly a quarter of a century, as well as voting to reintroduce conscription and unveiling joint plans with Denmark to counter Russian cyber-attacks and disinformation.
In the event of armed conflict, the leaflet says, “everyone is obliged to contribute and everyone is needed” for Sweden’s “total defense”: anyone between 16 and 70 “can be called to assist in the event of the threat of war and war”.
Sweden has not been at war with another country for more than 200 years. If it is attacked, the leaflet says, “we will never give up. All information to the effect that resistance is to cease is false.”