Speech by Minister for Defence Pål Jonson at the Folk och Försvar Annual National Conference
Speech by Minister for Defence Pål Jonson, delivered at the Folk och Försvar Annual National Conference in Sälen on 9 January 2023.
Check against delivery.
Your Royal Highnesses,
Soldiers and Seamen,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
With its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Putin regime showed that Russia is run by a government that lies, oppresses, murders, invades, occupies and deports – both adults and children.
This is an unprovoked and unjustifiable war that is also being conducted illegally and in violation of international law. Russia is systematically attacking civilian targets that lack any military objective.
Against the backdrop of a large-scale war in Europe and the severely damaged European security order, we find ourselves in one of the most insecure and dangerous times since the end of the Second World War.
Russia’s actions have brought about a fundamental deterioration of the security environment in our neighbourhood, which in all likelihood will remain for a long time to come.
We are therefore faced with three historic tasks for our country’s security and defence policy:
First, we will support Ukraine so that it can prevail and regain its full freedom and territorial integrity.
Second, we will carry out the greatest reform of Sweden’s security and defence policy in the modern era by successfully integrating Sweden into NATO.
And third, we will implement the greatest modernisation of our total defence since the 1950s.
A few weeks ago, I visited Odesa and Mykolaiv. The aim was to show solidarity and give support to Ukraine. But also to listen, and to learn from Ukrainians’ experiences from the war.
The lesson that left the deepest impression on me is how essential Ukraine’s commitment to defence has been to its survival.
Time and again they have demonstrated their ability to defeat an enemy possessing superior resources at critical stages of the war.
It was Ukraine that won the battles of Kiev and Mykolaiv.
It was Ukraine that retook Snake Island.
It was Ukraine that liberated Kharkiv and Kherson.
It is a reminder that wars are decided not only by the number of soldiers and weapons.
They are also decided by will, conviction and the struggle to be able to live in freedom.
I am convinced that victory is possible and that Ukraine can once again be a country that can live in peace and freedom.
But this will continue to require major sacrifices by the Ukrainian people.
And it will require increased military support from us in the West.
This support will affect our own defence capability and come at great economic cost.
But that’s a risk and a price that are low in comparison with the price in blood that the Ukrainian people are paying each day.
It is often said that Sweden should do more to help Ukraine – and I agree. But it’s not just about helping Ukraine.
It has at least as much to do with investing in our own security and commitment to defence.
The greatest threat to Europe and to Sweden’s security would be a Russian victory in Ukraine. This would have catastrophic geostrategic, security and military consequences.
It must not and will not happen.
Russia’s military advances must be halted. And at this moment, it is Ukraine that is Europe’s shield against those advances. Ukraine’s war is therefore our war.
The defence of Ukraine is the greatest security challenge of our time.
The Government will increase support to Ukraine; a new military support package will be presented by the end of January.
We are strengthening training support through Sweden’s contribution to the EU’s and the United Kingdom’s training initiatives for Ukrainian soldiers.
And we also intend to support Ukraine with materiel procurement, e.g. via the Defence Materiel Administration and Swedish defence companies.
The Swedish people are also strongly and deeply committed to supporting of Ukraine. This includes everything from established organisations like the Swedish Red Cross and Läkarmissionen to new initiatives like Operation Aid and Blågula Bilen.
I would like to extend a heartfelt thanks for all the efforts taking place in Swedish society to support of Ukraine.
Sweden, together with Finland, will soon join the defence alliance that has been the ultimate guarantor of Europe’s security for more than 70 years.
The security that NATO provides has never been in greater demand.
The Allies have taken a series of measures to increase security in connection with the outbreak of the war, and today more than 100 000 American soldiers are stationed in Europe. We are grateful for this.
NATO is a defensive military alliance whose collective defence is ultimately underpinned by a combination of conventional military capability and nuclear weapons. Sweden also stands behind NATO’s nuclear doctrine and strategic deterrence.
Through Swedish membership, NATO will become Sweden’s most important defence platform.
Membership of NATO will also improve the conditions for deepening our bilateral defence cooperation with the United States. We will go from being close partners to Allies in international policy.
Sweden has therefore recently entered into negotiations to conclude a Defence Cooperation Agreement with the US, which enables quicker and more effective US support in the event of crisis and war.
The Agreement will cover a large number of areas and make it easier for US forces to operate in Sweden – this may involve matters such as their legal status in Sweden, storage of materiel and investments in infrastructure to enable support.
Norway has already concluded such an agreement, and Denmark and Finland have entered into negotiations.
Ahead of and during the war in Ukraine, NATO and the EU have worked together more closely than ever before. This is excellent.
Through our Presidency of the Council of the EU, we will work to ensure that all tools at the EU’s disposal are used to support Ukraine and for even stronger cooperation between the EU and NATO.
Therefore, we hope that it will be possible to adopt a new EU-NATO declaration on deepened cooperation during the Swedish Presidency.
Our NATO membership will also be the foundation of stronger Nordic defence cooperation during peace, crisis and war. All the Nordic countries will then be NATO members. This will be an important initial asset going into the 2023 Swedish presidency of NORDEFCO and for the new vision for the cooperation that we will present later this year.
NATO membership will also open up a host of other possibilities for enhanced cooperation. This applies to areas such as civil defence and international crisis management operations.
But also to cooperation on new technologies in the framework of NATO’s Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic. The ultimate aim is to ensure that the Allies will continue to have the technological edge over any given opponent on a future battlefield. This is where Sweden, by virtue of a strong defence industry base and leading defence research, can make important contributions to strengthening NATO.
The war in Ukraine clearly demonstrates the importance of innovation capability, security of supplies and stamina. The defence industry in Sweden is also part of our overall defence capability.
Total defence must be strengthened. This is not without challenges. The supply of staff must be improved by means of good employment conditions, and more conscripted and professional soldiers. Long-range capabilities must be developed, and investments in autonomous systems and drones are needed. Capabilities in the cyber and space domains must be enhanced. Defence intelligence capabilities must be further developed. The civil defence’s ability to support the Swedish Armed Forces must be improved.
Ultimately, this all boils down to providing our combat units with staff and materiel. These units must undergo coordinated training so as to be able to defend Sweden and our NATO Allies on short notice against an armed attack. This is an important matter of credibility for Sweden as a NATO country.
The Defence Commission that I appointed in December has a very important task ahead of it. It will plot the course and provide thoroughly prepared proposals for scaling-up Sweden’s total defence and integration into NATO.
With its broad political composition, the Defence Commission is a strong part of establishing a long-term Swedish defence policy.
The growth that we are facing poses specific challenges, not least in the form of bottlenecks in production and development. I want to take a holistic approach to these challenges and introduce what we call growth-based political leadership. The aim is to achieve faster growth by giving defence greater leeway.
This includes matters such as framework decisions allowing government agencies greater flexibility in the implementation of training and exercise activities, changes to approval and process issues, and possibilities for more efficient public procurement.
In return, I expect public agencies that are willing to act quickly and in an innovative way to ensure an enhanced defence capability. When a war is raging in Europe, it can’t be business as usual – exceptional times require exceptional measures.
I began this speech with a dark description of the current security environment. But not everything is gloom and doom.
Historic investments in total defence are currently being made, backed by a broad political consensus. We are on our way into NATO, and NATO will be stronger. With the support of the West, Ukraine is standing up to authoritarian Russia, and the cohesion in the EU and NATO has been stronger than ever.
There is reason for hope even in these dark and dangerous times.
Thank you for your kind attention.