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Speech by Minister for Defence Peter Hultqvist at Berlin Security Conference 2017
Berlin, 28 November 2017
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Dear Ministers, Ambassadors, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen – it is a pleasure to address you today.
I want to thank Behörden Spiegel for organizing the Berlin Security Conference. Sweden is honoured to be partner this year. The theme of the conference is "Europe under pressure – security and defence in unpredictable times". I would like to take this opportunity to present Swedish perspectives on the security situation in Europe and our view on how we should respond.
Today's Europe faces several fundamental challenges: a recovery after the financial crisis, continued high unemployment, instability in our neighbourhood and the EU:s inability to handle the following migration crisis. At the same time, the EU is dealing with the consequences of Britain's decision to leave the Union. On top of this, we see emerging nationalist and populist tendencies in many European states.
The complexity and scale of the challenges at hand means that no European state can face them alone – the need for European cooperation is greater than ever. The current security situation calls for all European countries to engage in creating a Europe that is united and has the capacity to take responsibility for its own security. This is why Sweden was an active partner in the creation of the European Global Strategy and why we welcome the creation of the Permanent Structured Cooperation, PESCO.
These challenging times must be an opportunity for the EU to step forward and for European core values to lead the way. European unity and solidarity is key. This is of great importance not least since Europe is facing a more provocative and destabilising Russia that has lowered the threshold for using military force. A Russia that violates international law and through its actions challenges the European security order.
For a number of years Russia has invested heavily in modernising and rearming its armed forces. Russian military capability has increased since 2008. To my judgement this is a continuing process. By investing almost 5 percent of GDP in its Armed Forces, Russia sends a clear message about their priorities. Military spending is at the highest level since the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Russia has shown that she is prepared to use military force to change existing borders in Europe. We have seen this happening in Georgia and in Ukraine. Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and support of separatists in eastern Ukraine is the greatest challenge to the European security order since it was established 25 years ago.
There can be no business as usual as long as this behaviour continues, manifested in military action, disinformation and propaganda operations. Russia remains aggressive and thus increases tensions in our vicinity. Our response, guided by democratic principles and values, is firm, clear and long-term, and fosters European and transatlantic unity. The foundation of our approach is a desire to stand up for international law and the European security order.
The Russian actions do not only constitute an aggression on Ukraine but also a threat to the right for every country, including Russia's neighbours, to make their own policy choices. This is a cornerstone in the rule based world order and the European security order. Therefore, the Russian actions are a concern to us all and make our response all the more important.
The significance of the Baltic Sea Region to European security has increased. Russia has over the past few years showed a more challenging behaviour including violations of its neighbour's territorial integrity. The military-strategic situation has deteriorated and the region has become less secure. Russia is clearly seeking to increase influence over what it considers as its area of interest.
Sweden believes that challenges to European security must be met through cooperation and joint action. But on the national level, every country must take their share of the responsibility.
Sweden is pursuing a two-tiered defence policy:
First, increasing defence spending to reinforce our national military capability.
Second, from a military non-aligned position, deepening our defence cooperation with other nations and organisation.
This policy is based on a broad support in Parliament and has great support among the Swedish people.
Our key priority is to enhance the warfighting capability of the Armed Forces. This also includes the development of a modern "Total Defence" that includes both the military and the civilian defence.
For the first time in more than two decades, the Swedish government, with a broad support in Parliament, has decided to substantially strengthen the defence budget. Up until 2020 we will increase defence spending, including civilian defence, with a total of approximately 2,6 billion EURO This constitutes the largest increase in defence spending for many decades.
My main focus as Minister for Defence is to strengthen our defence in order to increase our ability to resist armed aggression and attack, thereby raising the threshold for conflicts in our vicinity, thus increasing stability and predictability in our region.
Due to the security situation in Northern Europe the Swedish government in March this year decided to reactivate the conscription. We have commenced enrolment since July this year and mandatory basic training will begin in January next year. The decision was made due to the failure of the all-volunteer system and the need to man our units with enough trained soldiers, sailors and squad leaders. The Swedish Armed Forces is planning for (at least) 4,000 recruits annually in basic military training in 2018 and 2019.
This means that our Armed Forces will have a mixed system with both conscripts and professional soldiers, sailors and squad leaders. In the light of the deteriorated security situation, our Armed Forces' ability to man its units is fundamental.
The modern conscription is gender neutral and will include both women and men. Of just over 6 000 young persons called for enrolment, almost 25 percent are women. I believe that this will increase the number of women in our armed forces and thereby making better use of the whole population in strengthening our warfighting capabilities.
Another example of Sweden enhancing the warfighting capability of the Armed Forces is the Combined Arms Exercise AURORA 17 conducted in September. This was the largest military exercise in Sweden for over 20 years. The exercise involved some 20 000 Swedish soldiers, sailors and officers, some 40 government agencies and broad participation from several international partners.
The objective of AURORA 17 was to exercise defence of Sweden, and it was an important step in implementing the Swedish defence decision from 2015. The exercise included elements of Host Nation Support in receiving troops on Swedish territory, and is a security signal in itself.
Transparency and openness were key principles during the preparations for and conduct of AURORA 17. These principles are crucial for de-escalation and promotion of trust between countries. Apart from informing other nations and international organisations, such as the OSCE, a voluntary inspection in accordance with the Vienna document was performed during the main phase of the exercise.
Sweden will continue to participate in, and host multinational exercises in our region. An intensive exercise pattern in the Baltic Sea region is important.
Sweden firmly believes that security is best built together with others. This is a core principle in Swedish security and defence policy. We are deepening our cooperation with our Nordic neighbours, in particular with Finland, the Baltic States, the EU, NATO and the USA. The transatlantic link is of key importance, as well as a unified European response to the events challenging European and global security.
Germany and Sweden have a long tradition of co-operation bilaterally and multilaterally within the EU and within the framework of Sweden´s partnership with NATO. Our bilateral co-operation is excellent in the area of defence. To high-light the cooperation between our countries, me and the German Minister of Defence Dr von der Leyen signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) in late June this summer.
The content of the LoI builds on current cooperative activities and new initiatives to work together effectively. It includes for example exercises, armament and multinational operations, and covers land, sea as well as air forces. Explicit examples are, promoting naval exercises and mine countermeasures in the Baltic Sea. The Letter of Intent also sets out to deepen the dialogue on defence policy, particularly concerning the Baltic Sea Region.
Germany is an important actor in the Baltic Sea Region and a partner that we share values and many central interests with. German-Swedish defence cooperation promotes stability in the Baltic Sea region and in Europe as a whole. It is of great importance for Sweden and for the region that Germany takes an active role in promoting peace, security and stability in our region. Therefore Sweden welcomes that Germany decided to take lead in NATO:s Enhanced Forward Presence in Lithuania.
The cooperation between Sweden and Finland holds a special place in both our countries' security and defence policies. It aims at increasing effect and efficiency through combined use of resources, increased interoperability and a closer dialogue on common challenges. The cooperation also includes planning for scenarios beyond peace time. Such planning and preparations shall be complementary to, but separate from, national operational planning in the two countries. This creates the possibility to, after necessary national decisions, act jointly and thereby contributing to a higher threshold for conflicts in our vicinity. The deepened cooperation between Finland and Sweden will remain central to managing current and future security challenges and thereby contributing to stability in the Baltic Sea region.
Considering our common history, our shared culture and values as well as a common geostrategic position, Sweden attaches high importance to the Nordic Defence Cooperation – NORDEFCO - as well as our cooperation with the Baltic States. By acting together in a predictable and consistent way, we contribute to peace and security in our part of the world.
Within NORDEFCO, particular emphasis is on increasing situational awareness in our region through enhanced cooperation on air-surveillance as well as strengthening our military capabilities. One concrete example of this is the development of the Nordic air exercise Arctic Challenge Exercise into a flag level exercise.
The United Kingdom is and will remain an important partner to Sweden in the defence and security field. Our joint Programme of Defence Cooperation, signed by me and the former Brittish Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon in June 2016, has borne fruit and most of what we agreed has been completed. The strategic approach and efficiency of this form of cooperation bears witness of just how important and useful these types of common statements and agreements with key partners can be. To further deepen our defence cooperation with the United Kingdom, Sweden and Finland, joined the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) earlier this year.
A strong transatlantic link is important for both European and American security. For the stability in the Baltic Sea Region, US and NATO presence is necessary. Sweden have a long-standing cooperation in the area of defence with the United States, which was consolidated last year through our Statement of Intent (SOI). It was signed by Secretary of Defence Carter and me, and was confirmed when I met with Secretary Mattis in May this year. The SOI covers five broad areas: Interoperability, Training and Exercises, Armament Cooperation, Research and Development and Multinational Operations. We have taken important new steps both at the political and at the military level.
Since the signing, we have deepened our dialogue on the policy and military level. Focus for our discussion has been Northern Europe and how we can respond to challenges together. We have stepped up our training and exercise programs, in the air, at sea and on ground. All this, recognising that joint activities bolster our ability to operate together and send security political signals to friends and others.
In September, we had a substantial American participation in the Swedish exercise Aurora 2017. Units from US Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and special forces took part. A few weeks ago Sweden decided to send a Letter of Request to the United States, concerning acquisition of the ground based air defence system Patriot
The EU is Sweden's most important foreign policy arena. Sweden is actively seeking to strengthen the Common Security and Defence Policy while keeping its intragovermental character. From a Swedish perspective, we see two main objectives with the quickly evolving defence package: strengthened common security and defence policy, and enhanced EU cohesion. Both are more important now than ever.
Within the EU the Common Security and Defence Policy is rapidly developing. This is shown in the creation of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and the European Defence Industrial Development Programme. From a Swedish point of view it's important that we all have agreed upon the principle that the programmes should be member state driven.
Sweden welcomes the work to move forward with an inclusive and ambitious PESCO and has notified its intention to participate in this cooperation. The objectives for establishing PESCO are both political and practical – our goal should be a PESCO that strengthens EU political cohesion and also helps us achieve the agreed EU level of ambition for the Common Security and Defence Policy. Both aspects are of strategic importance. Above all, PESCO is a matter of security policy.
Sweden also welcomes the European Defence Industrial Development Programme. We believe this programme has the potential to strengthen the competitiveness and innovation capacity of the European industry, including small and medium sized enterprises, without distorting competition. I would here like to stress the importance of including all European based industry and not limiting it to European owned industry only.
The EU and NATO are two of the most important institutions constituting the West as we know it. They both play important roles in meeting today's security challenges in Europe and elsewhere. As a member of the EU and an Enhanced Opportunities Partner to NATO, Sweden has a strong interest in an effective, complementarily and results-oriented strategic partnership between these organisations.
The importance of Sweden's partnership with NATO has grown as a result of the worsened security situation in our close vicinity. Political dialogue on common security challenges and how to counter them is essential and we are looking to further strengthen our cooperation with NATO in regional crisis. This includes modalities for information exchange, de-conflicting of activities and mechanism for political and military dialogue. About two weeks ago, our status as member of the Enhanced Opportunities Programme was renewed by the NAC. EOP is the bedrock of our cooperation with NATO and an important part of our defence and security policy.
The challenges we are facing point to long term destabilization. Europe has a key role in meeting the global challenges and threats we are facing. Only a united EU ready to stand up for its principles, will be able to contribute to European peace and stability in close cooperation with NATO and the USA. We need to continue developing the European defence and security cooperation in order to counter these challenges together. Sweden will remain an active part in any such discussion.
To finish where I started, we are living in a world with increasing insecurities, where institutions and relationships we considered stable are now under increasing pressure. We all have a responsibility to do our utmost to ensure peace, security and stability, on the basis of our different security choices.
Thank you for listening.