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Friends in need. The Swedish Declaration of Solidarity

Le CV (R) Lars Wedin, suédois francophile, auteur d'un excellent "Marianne et Athena", récemment couronné par l'institut (une histoire de la pensée militaire française du XVIII° siècle à nos jours), réagit à mon billet sur la Suède et l'Europe : il propose ici une analyse (en anglais) de cette "déclaration de solidarité". Merci à lui, car cela intéressera tous ceux qui s'intéressent au LB et voudraient regarder un exercice similaire, sur une méthode de scénarios...


O. Kempf


The (un-)famous Swedish policy on neutrality is just a remembrance. The Swedish White Book from 2009, still in force, is built on something completely new and rather unusual: a kind of unilateral alliance. The text, taken by unanimity by the Swedish parliament reads: The government supports the Declaration of Solidarity presented by the Defence Committee and covering EU Member States together with Norway and Iceland. It is impossible to see military conflicts in our immediate surroundings that could affect one country alone. Sweden will not remain passive should a disaster or an attack afflict another member country or Nordic country. We expect that these countries will act in the same manner should Sweden be afflicted. Sweden should therefore be able to both give and to receive military support.

The declaration should be seen against the background of the EU Lisbon Treaty, paragraph 42.7: If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States.

Commitments and cooperation in this area shall be consistent with commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which, for those States which are members of it, remains the foundation of their collective defence and the forum for its implementation.

The sentence “This shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States” is generally seen as an exemption for the “neutrals”, that is non-members of NATO. What the Declaration seems to say is that Sweden does not intend to use this exit. It is, however, Sweden as a sovereign state that takes any decision.

The Swedish Royal Academy of War Sciences has made a strategic study on the implications of the declaration, which now is available in English ( Price 100 SEK + freight). The following is a summary of the main points in this Study.

Political and strategic background

The Study notes that the Declaration is a manifest change in the Swedish security and defence policy in three respects:

  • • For the first time in modern times the government explicitly states that Sweden would depend on help if threatened or attacked;
  • • Sweden explicitly abandons the objective of staying outside a conflict in its immediate surroundings;
  • • Sweden states the possibility of helping other countries in a conflict situation.

While the Declaration covers such countries as France and Cyprus, the Study concentrates on a possible conflict between one or more of the Baltic States or one of the Nordic States on the one hand and Russia on the other. This is also the focus in Swedish debate and governmental statements.

While the history of the relations between Sweden and the Baltic States is long – they all once were part of Sweden - the Study concentrates on the 20th century. From 1721 until the end of the Great War they were all part of Russia. When they became sovereign states in 1919, Sweden readily accepted them. Sweden, however, was rather pessimistic about their future. While in support of their independence, the government was very careful not to engage too closely with them as this could lead to a conflict with Russia.

After the Second World War, the Baltic States became provinces in the Soviet Union. The Swedish government did not only accept their loss of independence but advised them to accept this situation. In particular, the minister for foreign affairs warned against anti-soviet agitation in the context of the extradition of Baltic soldiers from Sweden to the Soviet Union. In fact, most Swedes accepted, more or less subconsciously, that the Baltic “states” were part of the Soviet sphere of interest. Solidarity was a major political issue but only regarding the third world.

However, many Swedes were shameful about the handling of the abovementioned soldiers. There was also a large diaspora of Baltic origin in Sweden. When the Soviet system started to soften up under Gorbachev, hopes for the liberation of Baltic States grow. These hopes came true earlier than expected in 1991. The government, however, was initially very reluctant to sell weapons or to give military aid to the newly independent states. One reason was the old fear of provoking Russia; another reason the importance of avoiding a divisive debate in Sweden when the over-arching goal of the government was to join the EU.

During the post-cold war period, Sweden has gradually changed its position regarding the old policy of neutrality. It was finally understood that the fact that the Baltic States are independent and members of both the EU and NATO make the Swedish strategic situation very advantageous. The Baltic Sea, for 50 years a barrier, now links independent and democratic states – with a question-mark regarding the future of Russia. The Swedish policy regarding joining NATO is, however, unchanged: close cooperation: yes - but membership: no. In fact, there is hardly a debate in Sweden about this position.

The last paragraph above points to two major problems for the implementation of the Declaration of Solidarity: Russia and NATO. Russia is from evident geopolitical and historic reasons a major concern for Sweden. The Study was made before the 2012 elections but it seems to be assumed that Putin is the probable winner. With him the future is seen as rather bleak. The conclusion is worth quoting: The civil society and rule of law are still a long way off even if popular expressions of dissatisfaction are increasingly visible. The combination of growing military capability, imperial nostalgia, pressuring of neighbors with varying means, exaggerated fixation upon security and unpredictability in foreign and security policy risk causing a rapid change in the prevailing security-policy situation in Europe.

With Putin most probably as president for another six or twelve years the prospects for a new democratic Russia with a foreseeable agenda seems less probable.

It is interesting to note that the view on Russia is much more pessimistic in the English version of the Study published in 2012 than in the Swedish one published in 2011. The Russian policy regarding Syria seems, according to the author of this article, to prove the more pessimistic version.

As has been pointed out in the introduction above, the Declaration of Solidarity must be seen in the context of the paragraph 42,7 of the Treaty of Lisbon as well as paragraph 222 – the EU Solidarity clause. However, the Study is not very optimistic about the EU as provider of hard security for its members. On the contrary, the Study draws the conclusion that “the EU as an organization today lacks both the will and the capability itself to lead military forces to the assistance of any member state in the event of military attack.”

The Study is much more optimistic regarding the possible implementation of article 5 of the NATO Treaty. This optimism is based on the fact that NATO now has started contingency planning for the Baltic area. It is, however, stated that a credible defense option requires logistic preparations, exercises in the area etc. The author concludes that “NATO is today de facto taking its collective defence guarantees considerably more seriously than heretofore…][…At any rate, NATO’s security guarantees will probably be sufficiently credible for the foreseeable future to contribute very actively to preventing the outbreak of any sizeable war within the Euroatlantic area.”

To conclude, the Declaration on Solidarity is, primarily, aimed at the Swedish role in a conflict between Russia and one or more of the Baltic States. In such a situation, it is believed that NATO, not the EU, will be in the lead. But Sweden is not a member of NATO, nor is it aspiring to be one. This is, obviously, a major problem for the implementation of the Declaration on Solidarity.


The military strategic analysis is based on three scenarios:

  1. 1. A peacetime political crisis. NATO decides to intervene in order to demonstrate its support for the sovereignty of the affected Baltic State(-s) and to assert her territorial integrity. The risk of armed conflict is judged as practically non-existent but their might be incidents;
  2. 2. Perception of potential threat. An early military intervention by NATO could be stabilizing. There is some risk of escalation to armed conflict;
  3. 3. Surprise attack by Russia on the Baltic countries. The purpose of this scenario is to see what it could mean for Sweden should NATO have fallen behind and be compelled to start military operations quickly in an attempt to ward off the Russian attack.

The scenarios are based on the current military-political situation: Sweden still not a member of NATO, NATO still exists in its present form and that the EU has not developed into a military alliance (c.f. above). In all these scenarios, it is presupposed that Sweden will act according to its Declaration of Solidarity. Furthermore, the Swedish armed forces are in the strength and organization according to “Structure 2014” – the objective stated the by the 2009 White Book.

Strategic analysis

Scenario 1

Against the background of a serious crisis between Russia and Estonia, NATO decides to step its “air policing” activity in the Baltic and to conduct a sizeable naval exercise in the Baltic Sea. NATO and Estonia want Sweden to participate and to be able to use Swedish ports and air bases.

The Study concludes that “structure 2014” is well adapted to this scenario. Regarding command and control (C2), it concludes that the Swedish navy is experienced in NATO command and planning processes but that this could be a problem for the air force. The use of Swedish ports and/or air bases would probably require a strengthening of the capacity to guard these premises through call up of, i.a., units from the home guard.

Scenario 2

NATO decides, against the perception of a military threat from Russia, to deploy ground forces to the Baltics and to deploy air units forward in the vicinity. The objective is to clearly show NATO’s will and capability to act in solidarity with the Baltic countries. NATO desires that Sweden (and Finland) rapidly cooperates in establishing a military presence in the Baltic. Furthermore, there is a demand for basing air assets in Sweden as well as giving these forces the right to overfly Swedish territory. NATO naval units should be based in Swedish bases (Stockholm, Karlskrona).

Sweden could participate in such an operation with a battalion-size battle group. The main problem, the Study assesses, is the limited ability of such a unit due to lack of adequate joint exercises. Increased exercises, preferable with NATO earmarked units, is, hence, a must.

Regarding the naval units, their main problem is lack of air-defence capacity, particularly in an escort scenario. C2 for air units – Swedish as well as those of NATO, would probably pose difficult problems and require preparations and practices.

All in all, the Study concludes, the scenario would call for the main part of the armed forces according to “structure 2014”. Suitable resources exist but both the army and the navy lacks long range air defence. The structure is also weak regarding the defence of the island of Gotland, which due to its strategic location in the Baltic Sea, would be of great strategic interest both for NATO and, if the crisis escalates, for Russia. Furthermore, the Swedish territorial command organization would probably be inadequate. Most important, the Study concludes that such a scenario “requires co-operation that has been well and long developed (years) with the countries that may act in our immediate vicinity.”

Scenario 3

This is a “Georgia scenario” where NATO for various reasons acts late – Russian forces then are already on Baltic territory. Hence, current contingency plans for the support of the Baltic States, in the face of a military threat, are largely outdated. In this situation, NATO must act before the whole of Baltic territory is occupied. Otherwise, there is a risk that Russia will use a nuclear deterrent in order to secure ‘its legitimate security zone’.

NATO immediately commences air operations against Russian forces in the Baltic as well as against air-defence systems in the Baltic Sea area. NATO (USA) requires immediate rights to use Swedish air space, to deploy air forces and air defence systems to Swedish territory, and to strengthen the defence of Gotland. Furthermore, Sweden is asked to deploy heavy mechanized units to the Baltic States. The navy must protect transports to and from the Baltic States and, depending on the situation, to Gotland.

With this set-up, practically all advanced ground forces will end up in the Baltic or on Gotland. “This may perhaps be acceptable unless some serious threat to the mainland turns up later.” Furthermore, shortage of advanced air-defence systems appears “alarming” regarding the defence of base areas and Gotland.

Deployed ground units must have an all-round composition and be exceptionally well-trained. The “structure 2014” is weak at this point as it builds on a building-block approach requiring additional training.

Gotland is of decisive importance. Russian long range air-defence and anti-ship missiles deployed here could make all kinds of transport to the Baltic risky to the point of the impossible.

The navy has two main shortcomings: inability to undertake escort operations under an air threat and insufficient anti-submarine warfare capability in base areas (partly due to low numbers).

The air force should be able to defend the mainland but hardly Gotland or further away. Its capability of supporting ground forces is clearly inadequate. This lack of capability should be seen against a low number of artillery units in “structure 2014”.

The territorial organization will not be able to handle the needs of foreign units based on its soil.

To conclude, in such a rapidly developing scenario is could be doubted if Sweden really could contribute effectively. Extensive planning and joint exercises are a must.


The credibility of the Declaration of Solidarity rests on three pillars:

  1. 1. Prepared military forces;
  2. 2. Preparations – exercises on all levels with relevant partners;
  3. 3. Public awareness and support.

Regarding prepared military forces, “Structure 2014” has six main deficiencies:

  1. 1. The organizational structure requiring extensive need for exercises before deployment, which requires time;
  2. 2. Lack of modern air defence in the army and the navy;
  3. 3. Lack of capability of air support of ground units;
  4. 4. Lack of integration and interoperability of Swedish and NATO air control systems;
  5. 5. Insufficient territorial organization for the handling of large-scale NATO deployment to Sweden;
  6. 6. Lack of adequate defence for the crucially important island of Gotland.

Finally, the Study advances four more general conclusions:

  1. 1. The level of planning, exercises, and other preparations must be carried out to such an extent that the government gets freedom of action in acute situations;
  2. 2. Imbalances and structural shortcomings must be corrected;
  3. 3. Collaboration with relevant nations;
  4. 4. The government creates support from the general public through information.


This paper has just outlined some of the main areas studied. There are also important discussions on the views in Finland and in the Baltic States as well as the public opinion in Sweden – to take just some exemples.

Now, in 2012, the Declaration of Solidarity has been in force in three years. Practically nothing has been made to implement the requirements this declaration implies for the armed forces. The Study has, largely, been neglected and nothing else has been made – at least to the knowledge of this author. It is like the government would like to forget its Declaration.

Furthermore, “structure 2014” will not be implemented until much later – perhaps towards 2018 or, possibly, not at all.

One could, of course, suspect that the most important part of the Declaration is the last two sentences: ”We expect that these countries will act in the same manner should Sweden be afflicted. Sweden should therefore be able to both give and to receive military support.” But also this part of the Declaration requires planning, exercises, and other preparations. Nothing of the sort has happened – again to the knowledge of this author. A conclusion one could draw is that also the general public still doesn’t know about the Declaration and its implications – in spite of this being the basis for Sweden’s contemporary strategy.

In the autumn of 2012, Sweden will start the work on a new white book on its defence. One should then assume that the requirements of the Declaration of Solidarity will be the basis for this work. However, from what has been said by the Prime Minister, this does not seem to be the case. There is a risk that the armed forces will be further weakened.

Finally, one could of course say that a lack of credibility of the Declaration does not pose a problem. Given Sweden’s history, the Baltic States hardly have any great hopes for decisive Swedish action. However, this might not be the whole story. The Declaration could very well be a weapon in the hands of Russia in case of crisis. One could imagine that Russia would require Sweden to state that it will not interfere in Russia’s “internal affairs” in the Baltic. In such a case, Russia could demand to deploy observers to Sweden to check its activities in this regard.

The Study should be read by all interested in the strategic situation of Northern Europe.

L. Wedin


1. Le jeudi 25 octobre 2012, 22:52 par yves cadiou

You say that the Swedish White Book from 2009 was taken by unanimity by the Swedish parliament. Do you mean that the Swedish White Book has the value of a law ? If yes, do you think that giving it such a value is a convenient idea ? Thank you.

2. Le jeudi 25 octobre 2012, 22:52 par yves cadiou

J’y reviens mais cette fois en français pour ne pas abuser de google-traduc.
La méthode de scénarios qu'Olivier Kempf évoque dans le chapeau me semble précisément constituer le point faible du LB qui est présenté ici. S’agissant d’un document officiel, la diplomatie interdit de pousser trop loin l’analyse de "l’ennemi" russe. C’est pourquoi cette hypothèse de l’hostilité russe n’a pas été étudiée : elle constitue un postulat plus ou moins tacite qui doit probablement moins à la rationalité qu’à des sentiments qui résultent de l’histoire. Ce LB de 2009 est l’écho de la guerre d’Ossétie en 2008 mais la Mer Noire et le Caucase sont bien différents de la Baltique et du bouclier scandinave.
Le LB suédois n’indique pas pourquoi les Russes viendraient faire du grabuge en Baltique : au contraire ceux-ci ont tout intérêt à ce que la zone reste paisible parce qu’il s’y déroule des échanges commerciaux, c’est-à-dire gagnants-gagnants, et ils perdraient beaucoup d’argent si ces échanges devenaient l’échange gagnant-perdant que constitue une guerre. Tous les riverains de la Baltique sont acheteurs des hydrocarbures russes. 34% du pétrole consommé en Suède est vendu par la Russie. Un gazoduc vers l’Allemagne (Nord Stream) est en cours d’installation. Aucun riverain de la Baltique (Russie y comprise) n’a intérêt à casser tout ça.
Ce qui justifie l’existence de forces armées suédoises, c’est la nécessité de protéger les installations de transport d’énergie en coopération avec les autres parties prenantes et contre des Méchants qui trouveraient un intérêt à les détruire, c’est-à-dire non riverains de la Baltique.

3. Le jeudi 25 octobre 2012, 22:52 par Lars Wedin

1. L'éxpression suédoise pour "livre blanc" est; "décision sur la défense". Il contient deux parties a)ce que vous appelez livre blanc ainsi que la loi de programmation. Non la décision sur la défense n'est pas une loi dans le sens juridique.
2. Le livre blanc suédois de 2009 contient cette déclaration de solidarité. L'analyse avec les scénarois s'est fait par l'Académie royale des sciences de la guerre; une organisation privée. Le livre dont je vous donne un apercu n'est donc pas écrit par le gouvernement. Cependant, il montre comment on voit ces problèmes en Suède. Comme j'ai bien souligné, l'Académie a fait une étude stratégique basée sur des capabilités et ne pas sur les intentions. Cependant, il est clair que M Poutine a bien souligné que la dissolution de l'émpire soviétique était une catastrophe. Et quand les capacités militaires russe se renforcent et celles des européens se réduisent, la Russie a davantage des possibilités. Nous avons donc des raisons d'être prudent.

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