Point of View

Sitting on the fence. Swedish defence policy and the Baltic Sea region

Sitting on the fence. Swedish defence policy and the Baltic Sea region

Sweden finds itself in the midst of the most heated debates about defence policy and the direction of military reforms since the end of the Cold War, as Stockholm faces the challenge of finding a new military security formula.

From the Swedish point of view, the post-Cold War strategic timeout in Europe is coming to an end. The international environment is reverting to a situation in which the use of force among states is no longer an improbable scenario. Stockholm cannot rule out the emergence of crises or conflicts in Northern Europe in the future, which could directly or indirectly affect Sweden.

In this context, the transformations of Sweden’s defence policy over the past twenty years have become a problem. Sweden has moved from neutrality, i.e. non-involvement on any side of an armed interstate conflict, to non-alignment, whereby it stays outside military alliances and freely shapes its policies during wartime. It has joined the European Union and co-operates closely with NATO on foreign missions. Its ability to defend its own territory, however, has diminished.


Justyna Gotkowska - An analyst in the Department for Germany and Northern Europe at OSW since 2008, she specialises in the security and defence policies of Germany, the Nordic states and the Baltic states.