A political update from Sweden

Miltton’s Senior Advisor Niklas Nordström writes a weekly newsletter in Swedish about current events happening in Sweden and around the world. Here’s an English translation of the latest news but click here if you’re interested in subscribing to the original one.

MSB and the Swedish Armed Forces reinforce security guidelines

Anyone who hasn’t made preparations to manage at least a week on their own should do so and read through the advice from the authorities. The National Defense and the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency both signal that the situation is getting serious.

The threat towards Sweden has not been this great since the Cold War in the 80s. The National Defense have handed over their basis documentation to the government and parliament, and it states that major priorities and changes will be required for Sweden to be equipped. The Commander-in-Chief’s military advice to the government makes it clear that Sweden and Finland will join NATO, without any restrictions. We shall be full members and contribute to common security. Also, that Sweden should speed up so there are more units available and so that combat capabilities are developed now and in the future. The politicians are expected to respond with a decision within a year about the new direction.

The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency had a similar response and said that the civil defense will require SEK 27 billion per year in the future to equip Sweden for war. It should also be added that the cost increase that waits for the military defense is expected to be SEK 50 billion per year to reach the goal of 2 %. The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency flags that preparedness must be increased in several ways and that Sweden must become more self-sufficient when it comes to food production. Today, we are too vulnerable when half of the food we eat is imported.

Let me contribute with clarity. Sweden has for a long time underinvested in things related to basic functions in society. Energy and electricity supply, civil and military defense, police, infrastructure, elderly care and more. We have consumed money that should have been used to prepare for the risk of war or a serious crisis, and to maintain standards of basic social functions. It should also be added that Sweden in a very short time has grown by a million inhabitants, without there being a plan in place for how society should handle and pay for it. Anyone who thinks we will go unaffected as individuals, households and society can forget about it. The situation we are in will cost us and require both private and structural changes.

To govern is substantially more difficult than to oppose

In opposition it’s easier to say how things should be. Everything can be solved for the better and it will go faster as long as you get to govern. When I was a municipal council the most tiresome and recurring comment was “How hard can it be”. The correct answer to that is most often, if not always, incredibly difficult. Had it been straightforward, it probably would have already been done. Around every political issue there are conflicts of interest and conflicts of goals that have to be handled and, not the least, financial limitations.

Now the new government and Swedish Democrats are experiencing that it was not at all that easy to reduce electricity and fuel prices. On the contrary, it is both costly and complicated to bring about change. The compensation to electricity consumers in southern Sweden alone amounts to as much as SEK 55 billion. Promised reductions by several SEK on petrol and diesel won’t be other than on the margin.

Russia only understands the language of power

Without paraphrasing, it can be said that the West has completely failed in its Russia policy. Hopes that the fall of the wall would lead to Russia becoming a normal European country have been crushed. When I was at a conference arranged by Miltton a while ago I spoke to colleagues from the Baltics. They were clear that we in Western Europe still did not understand how Russia works or what it is capable of. The Balts have turned out to have been right in their view of Russia and the rest of the EU is now following in their footsteps in its revision of policies, for example in EU’s view of visas for Russians who want to enter Europe.

In an attempt to draw in more perspectives from those who lived under the dictatorship of the Soviet Union and got to know the regime’s treatment of dissidents and what those who live with constant threats from Russia, I read some articles. What can be summed up is that everyone who has left Russia because of the regime’s persecution or who lived under the oppression of the Russians say the same thing. Russia understands only the language of power and capital of violence. Any belief that Russia should behave civilly and normally with business relations and diplomacy is naïve. Particularly interesting was an article with interviews of employees of the security services of the Baltic countries. Several of the interviewees are at an age where, as young people, they did conscription in the Red Army. All of them testify that it is not so simple that you can call it Putin’s war, but it is a putrefaction throughout Russian society. None of the interviewees were shocked by all the news about how the Russian soldiers have tortured, beaten, raped and murdered people in Ukraine. Or how they steal and destroy everything they come across. On the contrary, they saw this as confirmation of just how bad things are with morality and humanism among Russian soldiers.

It is a bleak picture conveyed by those who have had to deal with the Russians themselves and who do not give up hope of a diplomatic solution. Instead, Ukraine must win this war and force the Russians to lose. Therefore, it is good that the National Defense have now completed their review of which weapons can be sent from Sweden, including the artillery system Archer. The Minister of Defense has confirmed that the issue is being worked out and that a decision will come.

The war is also going really badly for Russia. Apparently, the soldiers who were stationed in Kaliningrad have been sacrificed in the battles for Kharkiv. Of the 11,000 military personnel who were moved from Kaliningrad, at least half are dead or excluded. Probably more. It is just one example of how hollow Putin and Russia’s claims of being threatened by NATO are, when they move the soldiers who are, of course, the most strategic.

Niklas Nordström is a Senior Advisor at Miltton Sweden. He has spent around 150 000 hours of his life thinking and acting in politics. The remaining time is spent with his hunting labrador Boss.

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