On 19 November 2014, ICDS hosted a seminar on Sweden’s international defence cooperation. The speaker was Ambassador Tomas Bertelman, who had written a report for the Swedish Government called “International defence cooperation: efficiency, solidarity, sovereignty”.
Ambassador Bertelman told the audience that on 27 December 2013, the Head of the Ministry of Defence of the then Swedish government decided to appoint a special advisor with the task of describing the current status of Sweden’s international defence cooperation in the Nordic region, in the European Union, with NATO and other relevant forums and to propose ways in which it can further develop. He was appointed to be the special advisor, and he presented his report, “International defence cooperation: efficiency, solidarity, sovereignty” in October 2014 to the new minister of defence, Mr. Peter Hultqvist, in the government taking over after the September 2014 parliamentary elections.
Ambassador Bertelman summarized his findings by pointing out that Nordic defence cooperation is multifaceted, creative and pragmatic, and significant results have been achieved, not least with respect to logistics, training and exercises. This cooperation could be expanded in the Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO) setting. Limitations do hamper this cooperation, because differences in alliances determine how deep cooperation can be.
The European Union continues to be of fundamental importance, and it is in Sweden’s interests to work to strengthen the EU’s security policy role. However, the 2009 Treaty of Lisbon reflects the fact that with respect to member states’ national defences, the EU has, in practice, taken an indefinite time-out. Therefore, the overall effect of EU cooperation on Sweden’s defence capabilities will remain marginal for the foreseeable future.
Over a twenty-year period, Sweden has developed close cooperation with the NATO defence alliance within the Partnership for Peace arrangement. Sweden has developed its defence capabilities, and it is now on a par with that of many NATO members. Several new initiatives were announced at the recent NATO summit at Wales, and Sweden is keen to follow what these initiatives might bring along to Sweden. Also, cooperation with the United States has a special status for Sweden due to its technological breath and its importance for Sweden’s capability development.
Also, the ongoing investigation concerning deepened Swedish-Finnish defence cooperation has the potential to go further than previously including cooperation in air surveillance and maritime surveillance, as well as the use of joint infrastructure. There will be a report due on this cooperation in January 2015 by the Swedish and Finnish defence ministries.
Overall, Ambassador Bertelman emphasized as a conclusion that there should be a review of the defence policy currently being pursued. An objective and interest-based examination of what NATO membership would mean for Sweden should be undertaken. For a number of reasons, said Ambassador Bertelman, it would be advantageous if such a study were carried out together with Finland.
Ambassador Bertelman’s full report can be found here.