Warnings of War and Cautions of Crisis: The Swedish Defense Pamphlet and What It Means For the People of Sweden and the Rest of Europe
By Bharat Sanka
On May 21st, 2018, deep within the Swedish countryside, the town of Mariefred wakes up to a new day, except this day is no ordinary day, as each and every family in the little town received a pamphlet, titled, “Om Krisen Eller Kriget Kommer” or “If Crisis or War Comes”. This 20 page pamphlet details specifically what to do and how to find help in a crisis, these crises range from terrorism to cyberattacks, and climate change to even the dangers of fake news. It’s littered with warning phrases and rousing calls like, “Sweden wants to defend itself, is able to defend itself and will defend itself! - We never give up!” or “Every statement that the resistance has ceased is FALSE!.” Both the people of Sweden and foreign onlookers are shaken as the distribution of these pamphlets marks the end of Sweden’s long standing policy of neutrality in the face of war.
Sweden, now finds it urgent to warn its people, to prepare for any conflict or crisis the country may face in the near future. The last time the Swedish government issued such a pamphlet, the threat of World War 2, the bloodiest war in history, was looming over the country. This new pamphlet, issued by the Swedish Civil Contingencies, reveals that Europe’s political situation may not be as stable as it seems. With the release of these pamphlets, new questions are bubbling up to the surface, such as: why the Swedish government finds it necessary to prepare their citizens for incoming threats and what does this reveal about the political state of Europe?
Sweden has always had a complex relationship with the idea of taking military action, due to their continual desire to not partake in military action. In 2015, however, the Swedish parliament passed a new defense bill that increased spending on the military and brought back the policy of Total Defense Planning. The Total Defense policy was enacted during the cold war when Sweden was one of the most militarized states in Europe, the actual policy describes the integration of security and military practices into each and every part of Swedish society. Changing the social aspect of Sweden, turning from neutral to militaristic will be hard, but just last fall, Sweden joined other NATO powers in holding massive military collaboration in Gotland, a large island off the coast of Sweden. Additionally, the government brought back military conscription and increased the military budget last year. The introduction of these defensive policies is surprising but they all tie back to one influence: Russian aggression.
Russian provocation in Ukraine, annexation of Crimea, and actions near the Baltic states have sparked a new environment of disunity in the northern part of Europe. Russia has taken over parts of Ukraine and is backing Ukrainian separatists, this intervention has prompted Sweden to ramp up its military spending, in order to protect its citizens. Sweden wants to ensure their people’s protection if Sweden ever falls under attack from Russia. Additionally, Russia has also held many military demonstrations across the Baltic states, dramatically heightening tensions across Europe with their purely militaristic agenda. This turbulence is derived from Russian aggression in the Baltic States and Northern Europe, which reveals an underlying sense of instability in Scandinavia and the rest of Europe.
Sweden also has other reasons to caution it’s citizens. Problems like terrorism, fake news, and environmental concerns have recently been on the rise in Sweden. Last April, five people died in Stockholm when a driver rammed his truck into a convenience store. Since then, terrorism has risen to the top of the Swedish agenda. The distribution of these pamphlets exhibit how Sweden is trying to crack down on terrorism, while also preparing its people for other disasters. Surprisingly, these pamphlets also show how to recognize and deal with fake news and cyberattacks, displaying that the Swedish government, with the rise of the internet, is taking fake news and cyberattacks now more seriously than ever. Sweden, in the past, has cared a lot about its own environment and Christina Anderson of the Swedish Civil Contingency Agency explained that, “It is much more likely that we have a storm, or flooding, than a military attack”. Environmental disasters is still high on the agenda for Sweden and its government finds it imperative to account for and prepare its citizens for any environmental disaster that may come Sweden’s way.
The threats of Russia, terrorism, and fake news are all valid reasons for a government to prepare its people for crises, but Sweden is not just any other government. The Swedish government has been reluctant to take military action before, but recent events seem to be changing that narrative, so what has forced this change in narrative? Europe has been defined as a place of freedom, peace and opportunity. The EU has allowed many European economies to flourish and succeed. Unfortunately, underneath all that stability and economic prosperity, tension seems to be rising. Events like Brexit and increased Russian aggression have put a lot of countries on high alert. The Swedish defense pamphlet is just a symptom of the discord that is beginning to plague the nation.
The Swedish defense pamphlet reveals that change is coming for both the Swedish government and the rest of Europe. As instability, chaos, and tension grows within Europe, the narrative of Swedish foreign and defence policy will continue to shift towards more militaristic tendencies and recourse. The very nature of Sweden has begun to adapt to the new atmosphere surrounding Europe. The Swedish defense pamphlet is just the beginning.