Swedish defence must adapt to match ‘long-term’ Russian threat -lawmakers

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -A special Swedish parliamentary defence committee said on Monday the country’s defence must adapt to focus on the threat posed by Russia and a military attack could not be ruled out.

The Nordic nation has been scrambling to bolster its defences, applying to join NATO last year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, though Turkey and Hungary have so far held up Swedish entry into the alliance.

“Russia’s aggressive actions have led to a structural and greatly deteriorated security situation. Russia has further lowered its threshold for military use of force and exhibits a high risk propensity,” the committee said in a report.

“Swedish security and defence policy should be designed to deal with the long-term threat Russia is judged to pose to European and global security. An armed attack against Sweden cannot be ruled out.”

The all-party committee, which is supported by security experts and deals with major issues such as security policy, said the Ukraine conflict could escalate into attacks on other countries or even the use of nuclear weapons or other mass-destruction arms.

“The preconditions for Swedish defence policy have changed fundamentally,” committee chairman and Moderate Party MP Hans Wallmark told reporters.

Despite the alarming tone of the report, Sweden is in a better position to defend itself than a decade ago, Defence Minister Pal Jonson said, pointing to a domestic military upgrade – which has included reintroducing limited conscription – that has been going on over the last decade.

“A stronger national defence in combination with us being full-fledged members of NATO will increase our security, but it will also be a stabilizing factor for all the northern flank inside NATO,” he told Reuters.

Joining NATO would overturn Sweden’s long-time formal neutrality, although it has trained alongside NATO forces for years. Neighbour Finland, which has a long border with Russia, was admitted to NATO in April after applying alongside Sweden in response to the Ukraine war.

Like most Western states, Sweden gradually scaled down its defence spending after the end of the Cold War three decades ago but has ramped up it up again from around 1% of GDP. It is due to meet NATO’s threshold of 2% of GDP in 2026.

Deliberations will now begin to forge a broad agreement on long-term defence plans, including spending, with a final committee report due in April next year.

“We need more people, we need to buy more equipment, we need more infrastructure…,” armed forces chief Micael Byden told a defence conference on Monday.

(Reporting by Niklas Pollard, Johan Ahlander, Anna Ringstrom and Simon Johnson; editing by David Evans and Mark Heinrich)