Is the Swedish government’s alert to the public about the possibility of war simply alarmist?

Swedish and NATO flags are seen printed on paper this illustration taken April 13, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Swedish Civil Defence Minister Carl-Oskar Bohlin and military commander-in-chief Gen Micael Byden have issued warnings for Swedes to prepare for the possibility of war. While some politicians criticized the tone of the warnings, is it all just alarmism or a wake-up call for countries in the North?


The facts

It has been almost two years since Russia invaded Ukraine, escalating a war that has been going on mostly in the east of Ukraine after Russia’s unlawful annexation of the Crimean peninsula. 

The war has put Sweden on high alert, the country has broken with a long lasting tradition of military neutrality and has asked to join NATO, a process pending approval from Turkey and Hungary.

Now Swedish Civil Defence Minister Carl-Oskar Bohlin and military commander-in-chief Gen Micael Byden have issued warnings for Swedes to prepare for the possibility of war.

The warnings come amid rising tensions, with Sweden considering sending fighter jets to Ukraine.


The arguments

While the actual decision to engage in a conflict would depend on various geopolitical developments and the evolution of international relations, there are several factors indicating a potential shift in Sweden’s stance and preparedness for war.

Not only have there been warnings from Defence Officials to prepare for the possibility of war, indicating a perceived threat or risk, the fact that after more than two centuries of peace, Sweden is on the verge of joining the NATO defensive alliance suggests a shift in Sweden’s security posture towards a more collective defense arrangement.

Sweden reportedly taking part in training Ukrainian pilots and considering sending advanced Gripen fighter jets to Ukraine, implies a willingness to contribute militarily to a conflict.

On top of that Sweden is planning significant investment in military capabilities: Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has announced Sweden’s commitment to meeting NATO’s target of spending 2% of economic output (GDP) on military defense in 2024, doubling its spending since 2020. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on Sweden to work with his country and others to manufacture weapons and “get stronger together,” suggesting a collaborative approach to military preparation.

Critics however argue that there is a lack of clear evidence pointing to an imminent military conflict.

Some opposition politicians, such as ex-prime minister Magdalena Andersson, have objected to the tone of the warnings, stating that while the security situation is serious, war is not imminent.

Reports indicate an increase in calls to a children’s helpline from worried youngsters who have seen news reports or posts on social media, suggesting that the warnings may have caused unnecessary anxiety among the public.

The military commander-in-chief’s focus on urging Swedes to prepare mentally for the possibility of war may be interpreted as an attempt to raise awareness rather than an indication of an imminent military threat.

While the warnings convey a sense of urgency, officials, including Gen Micael Byden, have emphasized that the goal is not to cause panic but to prompt individuals to consider their own situations and responsibilities.

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