Sweden braces for unthinkable as Russian storm gathers on horizon

| Updated: 09 January, 2024 8:28 pm IST
Amid rising tensions with Russia, Sweden prepares for unthinkable. (Image credit: X)

NEW DELHI: In an unprecedented move, Swedish officials have issued a stark warning to their citizens, urging them to be more prepared than ever for the looming spectre of war. This unsettling advisory comes in the wake of Sweden and Finland’s decision, in May 2022, to align themselves with NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier that year.

While Finland smoothly transitioned into NATO membership in April 2023, Sweden faced hurdles, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan initially criticising the nation’s alleged inaction against Islamophobia.

However, Erdoğan eventually approved Sweden’s NATO accession, although the green light from the Turkish Grand National Assembly is pending. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán also voiced concerns, creating delays in the approval process.

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NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, nevertheless, conveyed optimism last week, stating that Sweden had fulfilled all necessary requirements for membership. The final approval is expected at NATO’s next summit in July in Washington, DC, promising to elevate Sweden’s regional impact and strengthen NATO’s control over the strategically crucial Baltic Sea.

Swedish Citizens Asked To Be More Prepared Than Ever:

This momentous decision by Sweden to join NATO carries profound implications, particularly in the context of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict and the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. As tensions escalate globally, Swedish citizens are being urged to abandon the comforting assumption that peace is an unwavering constant in their nation’s history.

Addressing an annual conference in Sälen, a village on the country’s eastern side, Swedish Civil Defence Minister Carl-Oskar Bohlin issued a sobering statement on Sunday. According to ‘Newsweek’ magazine, he emphasised the need for heightened awareness among citizens, drawing parallels with the unforeseen events that unfolded in Ukraine after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Sweden issues urgent warning to citizens. (Image Credit: X)

Bohlin’s words were not intended to instil fear but to promote “situation awareness.” He stressed that civil defence is not a theoretical exercise but a practical necessity, requiring tangible measures to raise the threshold in the face of potential threats.

This warning was echoed by Swedish Defence Minister Pål Jonson during his own speech on Monday in Sälen. Jonson underscored the evolving global landscape, citing the uncertainty surrounding the direction the US will take after its 2024 elections. The reluctance of some US House Republicans to continue funding for Ukraine, prioritising domestic concerns, adds an additional layer of uncertainty.

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Jonson emphasised the possibility of an armed attack against Sweden, emphasising the need for clarity of vision, capacity to act, and persistence in the face of a potentially hostile Europe. The warnings coincided with the unveiling of a comprehensive defence plan later this year, outlining objectives aimed at bolstering Sweden’s role as a NATO ally.

These objectives include strengthening the military corps, procuring long-term ammunition within the Nordic region, revamping defence innovation strategies for technological superiority, and expanding security initiatives. The plan reflects Sweden’s commitment to preparedness and resilience in the face of an unpredictable geopolitical landscape.

The sentiments expressed by Bohlin and Jonson are not isolated but resonate with other Swedish officials. Foreign Minister Billström warned that Russia would remain a threat indefinitely, necessitating long-term preparations for a confrontation.

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