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Accueil > Recherche > Défense de la France, défense européenne et coopération transatlantique > Russia As Seen from Sweden

Russia As Seen from Sweden

lundi 19 septembre 2011, par Lars Wedin

Résumé

La Russie est, géopolitiquement parlant, le pouvoir dominant de l’Europe du Nord. Son histoire et celle de la Suède sont liées par de nombreuses guerres et autres conflits qui ont marqué la culture stratégique suédoise. Aujourd’hui, la Suède jouit d’un glacis qui la sépare de la Russie, composé des États Baltes, pays membres de l’UE et de l’OTAN. Sa situation stratégique est par conséquent plus confortable que jamais. Mais où va la Russie ? Deviendra-t-elle un partenaire fiable ou fera-t-elle marche arrière dans l’histoire pour tenter de redevenir la grande puissance qu’elle était au temps de Pierre le Grand ou de l’URSS ? Ce sont là des questions d’une importance majeure pour les Suédois.

Le présent article ne cherche pas à répondre pas à ces questions. En revanche, il s’efforce de répondre à la question suivante : qu’en pensent les Suédois ?

Les Suédois sont plutôt pessimistes quant à l’avenir de la Russie. Ce n’est tellement pas la menace militaire que leur fait peur mais plutôt les faiblesses du pays : le manque de liberté d’expression, la corruption, la criminalité, le non- respect de l’état de droit. Malheuruesement, tous ces facteurs semblent s’aggraver avec le temps. Il existe donc un risque que la Russie se retrouve dans une situation grave, qui la conduirait à tenter une aventure extérieure pour réduire les tensions internes.

Le gazoduc North Stream entre la Russie et l’Allemagne pose plusieurs problèmes parce qu’il passera sur le plateau continental suédois. Il est d’un intérêt vital pour la Russie – donc aussi un enjeu militaire. Il pose aussi des dangers pour l’environnement de la Mer Baltique, très fragile. Il conduira également à un ralentissement de la transition nécessaire des Européens vers les énergies renouvelables. Enfin, on peut remarquer le manque de solidarité européenne de la part des Allemands dans cette affaire, qui inquiète non seulement les Suédois mais aussi les autres riverains de la Baltique.

Chez les partis politiques et les stratèges militaires, il existe plusieurs points de vue différents sur la menace que représente potentiellement la Russie. Alors que certains ne croient pas du tout à une telle menace, d’autres considèrent qu’elle n’est pas impensable. En revanche, et la guerre entre la Russie et la Géorgie l’a bien montré, on considère en général qu’il n’est pas impensable que la Russie soit tentée d’agresser l’un des pays Baltes. Dans ce cas, la Suède devra jouer un rôle important en coopérant avec l’OTAN.

Cependant, les Suédois souhaiteraient une meilleure coopération entre l’Europe et la Russie. Il est de ce point de vue-là essentiel que la Russie respecte les acquis de l’OSCE et du Conseil de l’Europe.


I) Introduction

In the middle of Stockholm there is a statue of King Charles XII (1682-1718). He points with his left hand towards the East, towards Russia, while his right hand holds his sword. He, who, as Guibert wrote, lost his army in Ukraine, warns the Swedes of the eternal danger coming from Russia.

In fact, Russia plays a predominant role in the Swedish strategic culture. From a geopolitical point of view, Russia is the dominant power in Northern Europe. Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries are situated on the rimland between the Eurasian heartland dominated by Russia and the Atlantic dominated by the Western maritime powers. Sweden’s rise to the status of a great power in the 17th century was at least partially dependent on Russian weakness and was, consequently, lost when Peter the Great became Tsar. Today, Russia could be seen as returning to old history, Russians as a select people. Instead of moving forward, Russia seems caught in the grip of history.

Is it possible that Russia can overcome such tendencies and become a stable partner to Europe and a stable democracy with respect for rule of law and human rights ? This is the main question asked by those in Sweden studying Russia. As we will see, there are various views on this issue including the central question – to what extent Russia constitutes a threat against Sweden. This diversity of opinions is the theme of this article.


II) The historic background

The relationship between Russia and Sweden has a long history. While Norwegian and Danish Vikings went Westward, Swedish Vikings did prefer to go east through what now is Russia and the big rivers down to the Black Sea to sell their goods like hides and slaves. Swedish tradition tells us that “Rus” as in Russia is a derivate from name of the Swedish coastal region Roslagen and that the Vikings founded the state Rus with Kiev as its capital in the 9th century.

Sweden and Russia (or its predecessors) have fought a number of wars from early medieval times to 1809. The rise of Sweden to the status of a great power was partly due to the “Time of Troubles” in Russia during the early 17th century. But after the rise to power of Peter the Great, the Baltic empire of Sweden gradually vanished with the loss of Finland in 1809 as its final act. In particular, the sack by the Russian galley fleet of the Swedish archipelago in 1718-1721 left deep scars in the collective memory.

Sweden has not been at war, formally, since 1814 but when the Great War started, it was a rather close thing. At that time, the Swedish navy was rather strong and as the officer corps including the King was in favour of Germany, Russia was afraid that these two countries would ally themselves against it. Hence, the Russian admiral von Essen took his fleet to sea in the early days of August 1914 to force the Swedish fleet to demobilize for the rest of the war – the alternative would be to destroy it. However, von Essen was for unknown reasons called back and Sweden was able to remain neutral.
During World War II, there was a virtual war between Soviet submarines and Swedish naval vessels escorting convoys through the Baltic Sea.
During the Cold War, despite the so called Swedish policy of neutrality, the Soviet Union was clearly seen as the potential aggressor. In particular during the 80’s, Swedish navy fought a war in peacetime against Soviet submarines intruding in its territorial waters.

Nevertheless, during the Cold War, some circles in Swedish politics readily accepted the idea of a Russian zone of interest in the Baltic region. For instance, the Minister for foreign affairs of the time, Undén, declared in 1945 that Sweden should accept the incorporation of the Baltic republics into the Soviet Union. There were also self-inflicted restrictions, like a prohibition to operate with the navy east of the island of Gotland.
The end of the Cold War changed the strategic situation in the Baltic area. In particular, the membership of the three Baltic States in the EU and NATO meant that Sweden had got a glacis between the Russia and the Baltic Sea. The strategic situation now was perceived as so favourable that the Armed Forces Headquarters declared a “strategic time-out”. The thought was that nothing dangerous could happen for a number of years and, hence, the armed forces could be completely restructured without needing to bother about readiness.

The war between Russia and Georgia abruptly changed this perception. Russia showed itself able to attack a small neighbour on its border. The Swedes suddenly realized that such a threat could also materialize regarding the Baltic States. And then Sweden would be affected.
The result was the final (?) abandon of the policy of neutrality. To quote (in a somewhat edited version) the Minister of Defence, Mr Tolgfors : It is not possible to envisage a military threat that would affect only Sweden or any other single country in our region, without at the same time affecting the other countries... Sweden builds security together with other countries, with the Nordic countries and the EU... Sweden is not defended only within its borders. Incidents, conflicts and war, must be prevented from reaching them. Sweden has a clear Baltic Sea perspective in its security policy and military capability priorities.... Sweden shares values and interests with the EU and the Nordic and Baltic countries. One expression of this view is the Swedish government’s declaration of solidarity : “Sweden would not stand passive if a neighbour is threatened or attacked. We expect others not to stand passive if Sweden is threatened. We must be able both to provide and receive support, with relevant capabilities, also of a military nature.”
It is quite obvious, albeit not explicitly stated, that the single military threat that could put this solidarity declaration into action, would be a Russian attack or the threat thereof.


III) Swedish official policy

The official Swedish foreign policy is stated yearly in the so called foreign policy declaration by the Minister for foreign affairs to the Parliament. The latest one, from February 2011, states that it is a European interest that Russia develops into a full-fledged political and economic partner. However, Russia must contribute to solve existing conflicts in our common neighbourhood. Furthermore, Russia must modernize itself in order to become a State with a functioning rule of law, full respect for human rights and democracy. It is necessary that Russia becomes fully integrated in international cooperation built on mutual undertakings. Sweden supports Russian membership of the WTO.

This message has, by and large, been reiterated at least since 2008. In 2009, in the aftermath of the Georgian war, the message was somewhat sharper as it was said that “the development during later years is unfortunately going in another way [than towards a modern, successful and democratic state]”. Furthermore, before the new START agreement (Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms) was signed in 2010, the need for such a treaty was often underlined.

Consequently, Sweden wants to see a Russia integrated in the world community and a partner to Europe but, importantly, Russia itself must take responsibility for its own democratic development and its relations to its neighbourhood. As we will see, in many (most ?) circles in Sweden there are serious doubts about the Russian willingness to go that way.
The Swedish Presidency of the EU during the second semester of 2009 led to good relations between the two countries. The Swedish Prime Minister, M. Reinfelt visited Moscow and there was a return visit from his Russian counterpart, M. Putin.


IV) Views on Russia

1) A post-modern power ?

Professor Huldt, from the Swedish National Defence College (SNDC) and one of the most well-known strategic thinkers in Sweden, has written : "What is Russia ? Is it a "modern" state consolidating within its new post-Cold War boundaries, ready to forget about the "socialist empire" and its ambitions ? Or is it still (or rather more so) the empire of Peter the Great and his successors in a modern version and with ambitions to recapture or reintegrate lands lost both from the Tsars and Stalin ?"

The 2009 “White Paper”, on the development of the Swedish defence, states that the political development in Russia is getting more and more authoritarian. Corruption increases while there are ever more constraints on civilian society. Nationalism is mounting. The paper also concludes that Russia does its utmost to restore its role as a great power. The result of this policy is that Russia has distanced itself from the European security order and increased the distrust against itself. In particular, the paper expresses worries about the Russian idea of a right to defend its citizens also in other countries. This is particularly relevant for the Baltic States with their large number of Russian citizens.

While Russia seems to be ready to take political and military risks in its neighbourhood, the paper states that such actions are less likely against States who are members of the EU and/or NATO.
The fact that Russia is important is underlined by the efforts by the Government to strengthen research on Russia. This has, among other endeavours, led to a brand new centre : UCRS (Uppsala Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies).

Swedish scholars are also generally pessimistic about the future of Russia, albeit with certain nuances.
The main threat against Russia does not stem from NATO or other Western sinister plots. It stems from Russia itself, its own backwardness and inability to modernize itself. Will the president elected in 2012 have the strength to carry through necessary reforms ? If not, one could argue that Russian leadership is the main threat against the country’s existence. This problem was, in fact, brought forward by Prime Minister Putin during his visit to Stockholm in April 2011. He then argued that the main threat stems from Russia’s economic and technological backwardness. Swedish companies were, consequently, invited to cooperate with Russia. Experiences from such undertakings, however, have rather been negative because of corruption, lack of rule of law, and criminality.
While most of Europe today is "post-modern", many Swedish commentators argue that Russia still is modern according to the definitions given in Robert Cooper’s The Breaking of Nations. Order and Chaos in the Twenty-First Century (Atlantic Books 2003). That means that when Europeans seek security mainly through cooperation and integration, Russia still is attached to “modern” ideas like balance of power, territorial threats, and ideas on possible attacks against it. In particular, it regards NATO’s enlargement as an illegal expansion into the Russian sphere of interest. NATO’s military capacity is, hence, seen as a potential military threat.

Another threat stems from Russian dependence on export of gas and oil. While Europe to some 50% is dependent on Russian gas, Russia is even more dependent on this relationship as 90% of its export goes to Europe. Sweden, however, does not use natural gas and this aspect on Russian policy is, consequently, not often discussed.

The policy line of Putin is seen as traditional where hard security and military power is underlined. It is more important that Russia is feared than respected. Some observers believe that President Medvedev wants to pursue a more benign, cooperative, or post-modern line. If that is true, Russia would have a long way to go as it requires profound reforms in the face of resistance from media and the “kleptocracy”.
Russia under Medvedev could be a friendly partner to the US and Europe but simultaneously unwilling to engage with them against global challenges, some observers believe.

But if Putin wins the elections in 2012, "Putinism" would stay on in the foreseeable future : a strong and centralized state apparatus, state control of major strategic resources, an FSB-ization of the entire Russian society. He would presumably strive to establish the image of Russia not only as the most important regional power in the CIS region and a very important one in Europe and Asia but also as a global power enmeshed in a contest with the US over global issues based mostly on its nuclear arsenal and its energy resources.
Russia would also try to change the security structure of Europe, continue cooperation with the CIS, where it would strengthen its military presence, and stop further expansion of NATO. It would use political means of power, border and visa issues in support for separatists and Russian minorities abroad. These minorities are seen as levers for Russian pressure in a long term perspective.
Russia is understood as having drawn the conclusion from the war with Georgia that attacks on a State with close relations to Washington and subsequent ethnical cleaning is possible without major repercussions. The same conclusion is drawn from the IT-attack on NATO-member Estonia in 2007.

In this scenario, Russia would not be interested in interdependence with Europe. A "Europeanization” of Russian norms would not be likely, at least in the medium-range perspective.
Russia is often seen as striving after a come-back as a great military power. The military sector is given more resources, albeit from a low level. Hard security, prestige, and pretensions of respect are again given priority in defence policy.

The two biggest Swedish political parties also take a pessimistic view. The Social Democratic Party is very critical of the political development of Russia under Putin. The war against Georgia is a case in point but also the “brutal” deficiencies regarding the rules of democracy and lack of freedom of speech are worrying. We must continue to work with the Russians and make them explain themselves, says former Minister of Defence von Sydow.
The war against Georgia underlines, the Party believes, the importance of an EU standing up for its values regarding democracy, human rights, international law, and, not the least, the right of small countries to choose their own ways.
The ruling Conservative Party (Moderaterna) is even more blunt. Mr Mats Johansson, MP, says that Russia is politically a totalitarian State. It is destabilized from within by corruption, abuse, and a decreasing population.
The party’s official homepage talks about revanchist and nationalism as well as clear markings in what Russia sees as its sphere of interest. It is perhaps necessary to underline in this context that the idea of spheres of interest are completely contrary to the acquis of the OSCE.
Furthermore, democracy in Russia is developing in a negative way with ever increasing limitations on the freedom of speech and control of media by the State.

To conclude, the Swedes worry about the future of Russia. Few seem to believe in a positive development. More common is the assessment that Russia will remain a modern state, as opposed to a post-modern one, emphasizing hard power, and striving to come back as a great power. The Russian contempt for the common values agreed upon within the OSCE and Council of Europe is seen as a rising danger, which calls for steadfast policies by the EU.

2) Energy

Although Sweden itself is not dependent on natural gas, the White Paper observes that the Russian use of energy as a political weapon has led to increased distrust in Europe and the USA.

The German-Russian gas pipeline from Vyborg in Russian Karelia through the Baltic to Germany has stirred up a lot of emotions in Sweden. The reason is threefold. One reason is that Russia has declared the pipeline as a vital interest and, hence, might use military resources to guard it. As the pipeline is partly placed on the Swedish continental shelf, this fact obviously makes it at least a potential security threat. Secondly, the pipeline may pose serious risks for the environment in an already fragile sea. The fact that there still are thousands of mines from two world wars at the bottom of the Baltic does not diminish this risk. Thirdly, the pipeline will make Europe more dependent on Russian gas.
The Left Party, former Communists, underlines the environmental hazards and notes that this pipeline will make it even more difficult for Europe to invest in renewable energy. The Party also emphasizes that the project increases Russian possibilities to use energy as leverage against the EU.

The Conservative Party also emphasizes the risks stemming from the ever increasing European dependence on Russian gas. It also notes the security aspects of the pipeline and that the project is used as a motive to strengthen the Russian Baltic Fleet. Consequently, the pipeline leads to a new strategic setting in the Baltic Sea and for its coastal States, the Party writes.
Both the Green Party (Miljöpartiet) and the Left Party wanted the Government to deny the Russian-German consortium the right to lay down the North Stream pipeline on the Swedish continental shelf. The Government, however, could not see that international law would support such a move. In fact, the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is rather clear on this point. One could, however, wonder about how Germany understands the notion of European solidarity when it supports a project clearly seen as both an environmental and a security threat by most Baltic Sea States.

3) Economy

The White Paper concluded in 2009 that the economic development in Russia has mainly been positive and that the well-being of the population has increased. There is hope for the development of a middle-class that may constitute an important and positive political force. However, the dependence on raw material is dangerous. When prices are going down, there may be repercussions for Russian foreign and internal politics.
The Social Democratic Party is very critical regarding Russian economy. The financial crisis of 2009 has swept away the capacity for reform. The chance to invest for better well-fare, modernized infrastructure, and diversified economy is gone. In its wake, the crisis may lead to increased social and political tensions.

The social and economic situation risk pushing Russian foreign policy in an even harder direction, the Party assesses. Russia already uses hard language against its neighbours.
Finally, many observers also point out the catastrophic demographic situation in Russia where the population is believed to be reduced from about 140 million inhabitants today to around 100 in 2050.
In this context it should also be noted that, as mentioned above, Swedish enterprises are not too keen to invest in Russia because of corruption and lack of functioning rule of law.

To conclude, the Swedes tend to be rather pessimistic regarding the future of Russian economy. It is believed that social and economic tensions will lead Russia to adopt an even harder foreign and security policy.

4) Military power

Professor Wahlbäck, a well known strategic thinker, believes that the objective of the Russian government is to make States in the ”near abroad” obedient. The means will primarily be in the economic-political sector including by corruption of political parties and media. It is hardly likely that military means will be used against members of EU and/or NATO – but the risk exists ! This is particularly true in the case of an economic crisis.

It is quite obvious that Sweden somewhat anxiously follows attempts to rebuild and reform the Russian military. As was pointed out above, Sweden and Russia have a long history of wars and the war against Georgia served as a reminder of this fact. With the Swedish solidarity declaration, the issue of a possible Russian military threat against a Baltic State has come to the forefront in the academic discussion.
This being said, it also often underlined that the Russian build-up – if that’s really the case – starts from a very low level. Furthermore, many analysts point out that menaces against Russia rather comes from the South-East than from the West.

When discussing Russian military power and possible military threats against Sweden, it must be observed that this issue is very political. An estimated high level of military capability would call for a strengthening of the Swedish territorial defence – a move no political party supports. Hence, there is a strong incentive to rather underestimate Russian capabilities than vice versa.

- Military reform

A recent article in the journal of the Swedish officer’s trade union (yes, Swedish officers, like everybody else in Sweden, belongs to a trade union) discusses the Russian military reform. The war in Georgia 2008 showed, the article says, the need for an important overhaul of Russian military defence. The Armed Forces should be drastically changed from preparing for a large scale attack against (or from) NATO to more of a rapid reaction force for the immediate neighbourhood. A large numbers of units and their officers have been disbanded. At the same time, it was found necessary to renovate the material, the command system and the training of the personnel. Consequently, the Russian defence budget would increase from about 2,6 % of GNP to 3,4 % in 2014. However, as with the other attempts to military reform also this one is steaming towards dangerous waters. The military-industrial complex cannot deliver. That’s why Russia bought Mistral amphibious ships from France and UAVs from Israel. The biggest problem is about personnel. Very few intelligent young men want to join because of bad leadership and strict hierarchy. Here lays the real challenge, the article concludes.
Another well-known specialist on Russia, M. Leijonhielm of the SNDC, has written that the Russian plan calls for a modernization where, in 2020, 70% of the forces should be equipped with modern weapons. The budget increases rapidly ; with 10-15% in real terms per year. Exercises are becoming increasingly complex, which greatly enhances military capability. The objective, clearly spelled out in the military doctrine of 2010, is to come back as a regional, and later global, military power.
The real problem, Leijonhielm asses, is the personnel. There is a lack of junior officers and non-commissioned officers, the health situation is bad, conscripts have a low degree of training, discipline is problematic, and the strategic leadership is weak. Nevertheless, the capability to use power against weak states is slowly increasing and its nuclear weapons give it the status of a global power.
The Conservative Party also discusses the military reform. It underlines the professionalization of the Armed Forces and concludes that Russia, like armed forces in the west is striving for lighter, more mobile units. The military capability will increase but it is still a far cry from the situation at the end of the Cold War. Russian capabilities today resemble those of France or Germany. Nuclear weapons play an important role both politically and militarily. It is believed that the Georgian war has lowered the threshold for using military force.
So which are the conclusions drawn about a possible military threat against Sweden or its neighbours that are covered by the Swedish declaration of solidarity ?

- A military threat

In Swedish debate, a couple of retired senior officers are arguing for a return to territorial defence based on compulsory military service and a strategy of attrition. These views have quite an impact in media and by those longing back to the large Armed Forces of the Cold War.
Russian military doctrine, one of them writes, is following a negative trend characterized by excessive views on security, zero-sum thinking regarding security policy, and an aggressive posture towards States who do not accept its policy or who wants to become members of NATO.
The doctrine underlines the defensive capability but development rather points towards an increased offensive capability. The acquirement of French Mistral-class amphibious ships is a case in point. New aircraft, increased readiness, air mobility, and amphibious capability will constitute an important factor of power in the Baltic Sea area. The development, however, is hampered by structural problems ; in particular by bad leadership and problems with personnel.
Nevertheless, Russian capabilities should not be underestimated. Its rearmament will have important consequences for the strategic situation around the Baltic Sea. This development is aggravated by the decreasing capabilities of the US and European divisions regarding their policy towards Russia.

As there is a risk of military confrontation in Northern Europe between USA and Russia, Swedish Armed Forces should establish a credible defence zone between East and West. Russia is one actor, it is underlined, that has an interest in Swedish territory. As a consequence, there might be a situation when Russia wants to control Swedish territory. This would particularly be possible if Sweden does not possess a credible defence in relation to the USA and NATO, it has been argued.

Not surprisingly, this school of debate condemns Swedish cooperation with NATO, its participation in Partnership for Peace (PfP), as well as its participation in the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

- Maybe a threat later

The White Paper argues that the Russian Armed Forces will continue to, on the one hand, meet threats from nuclear weapons and, on the other hand, to handle regional conflicts – primarily with rapid reaction forces. The nuclear capability is the most important one both regarding strategic and tactical weapons.
Russia has the capability to use precision guided weapons, and light ground forces but its capability to carry out important operations outside its territory and its neighbourhood is limited. Also its capability to engage an enemy having high-tech capabilities is low.
However, with the acquirement of modern equipment, new command and control system, and better training, Russian capabilities will increase in comparison with the situation in the late 90’s. On the other hand, Russia gives priority to its forces in Caucasus ; those in Leningrad’s Military District have less capability to carry out important operations. As mobility is increases, this difference is reduced.

- No threat

Both the Left Party and the Greens want to reduce the Swedish Armed Forces. The former motivates this view with the present strategic situation. The latter explicitly writes that defence against invasion should be abolished. Hence, one could draw the conclusion that neither of them sees Russia as a military threat. On the other hand, both Parties are traditionally anti-military, a view that may steer their political position more than a strategic assessment.


V) Russia and Europe

Swedes hardly see Russia as a part of Europe. Russia is something special, both European and Asian at same time. It is quite clear from the discussion above that Sweden is in favour of a close cooperation between Europe and Russia – but such an endeavour should not be pursued by giving up on European values as stated in the acquis of OSCE and Council of Europe. It is Russia that has the burden to prove that it is European. And for the time being, chances that this will happen seem meagre.
For geopolitical reasons, Sweden obviously has more of a strategic interest in the Baltic area than, for instance, France or Germany. The geopolitical fact is that Baltic States under Russian control would be much more serious for Sweden than for continental Europeans.
This geopolitical dilemma is also true for the Finns with their long border with Russia. Finland, who has fought Russia three times during the 20th century, still keeps a substantial territorial defence. In fact, many Swedes use Finland as an argument when lobbying for a strengthened defence against invasion.
However, this divergence of interests is seldom discussed. It is still by and large taken as granted that NATO would come to the help of a Baltic State being attacked.
In Sweden, the German decision to abolish its nuclear energy program has been discussed mainly in environmental and economic terms. The strategic consequences of Germany making itself highly dependent on Russian gas have, basically, not been discussed. The fact that the German move seriously jeopardizes the credibility of NATO does not seem to have been widely noted. NATO is still seen as the ultimate protection against Russia, including for Sweden.
The future of the CSDP has been questioned but that is more a consequence of Europe’s inability to handle operations in Libya than about its credibility in the Russian context. Generally Swedes do not believe that Europe is able to defend itself without US aid. The fact that USA more and more gives priority to the Pacific and the Indian Ocean is yet to become an issue.


VI) Russia in the Baltic

The discussion on Russia in the context of the Baltic Sea area has mainly focused on the above-mentioned pipeline. Another worry is the environmental consequences from a possible accident at sea. The Baltic Sea is today one of the most busy waterways in the world and a great deal of shipping goes to and from Russia. Russia is also highly dependent on this traffic. Both these factors make Russia an important actor in the area.
Obviously, Russia and the Baltic are also discussed in terms of hard security. The Armed Forces assess that the presence of both Russia and NATO in the area will increase. This could lead to increased tensions, they believe.
Earlier this year, the Royal Academy of War Sciences published a study on the possible implementation of the solidarity declaration described above. The scenario was a Russian military threat against one of the Baltic States. Three alternatives were discussed : tensions that could lead to a conflict, military threats where Russia’s intentions are unclear, and open military aggression. The study underlines that neither of these scenarios is a prognosis but only used for the purpose of studying the implications of the solidarity declaration.
In the first scenario, Sweden could effectively contribute to stabilization by, for example, naval exercises and air policing. The second scenario would call for a NATO mission to which Sweden could make rather important contributions as a close neighbour. The last scenario would obviously call for a NATO article 5 operation. The geostrategic situation would make the mission extremely difficult if Russia starts its operation before NATO is able to react.
The study draws a number of important conclusions about Swedish defence policy that are outside the scope of this article. More relevant are the importance of preparations and exercises between the Baltic States, NATO, and Sweden as well as the value of Swedish territory for NATO as a staging and base area. The island of Gotland is of particular importance thanks to its geostrategic location. If Sweden and NATO control this island it could be a useful staging point and as protection of the flank. But in the hands of Russia, NATO operations – air and sea transport, anti-submarine warfare, and command and control – would be seriously jeopardized by Russian long-range air-defence and surface-to-surface missiles.


Conclusions

Russia will continue to play a very important role in Swedish politics. Few observers believe that Russia constitutes an immediate threat against peace and stability in the Baltic. Many, however, are worried about the way Russia seems to develop and its quest for regaining the status of a great military power and the reestablishment of a sphere of interest. That being said, for many observers it is the Russian weakness that is the most worrying as this may lead to decreased political stability, internal social tensions and, maybe, a temptation to divert popular dissatisfaction through external adventures.
In this context, it is important that Sweden and NATO prepares for the possibility of a Russian aggression towards a Baltic State.
Of more immediate concern is the decreasing level of democracy, freedom of speech, and rule of law. Corruption and criminality make Russia a country where many enterprises are reluctant to invest.
The North Stream pipeline poses several different problems. It is a vital Russian interest within the Swedish economic zone ; it strengthens European dependence on Russian gas, which in turn reduces the credibility of NATO and EU while slowing down the transition to sustainable energy.
Nevertheless, cooperation between Europe and Russia is important and should be strengthened. This should, however, not be done by abandoning important principles as stated by the OSCE and Council of Europe.