The Gripen attack aircraft. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/TT.

Borders discussed at defense conference

Border defense must be a top priority for Sweden's armed forced, even above other international obligations, according to officials ahead of an annual defense conference being held this weekend in Sälen.

That was the view being expressed by Sweden's two largest political parties ahead of the conference on Swedish Security.

"The defense of Sweden starts in Sweden," said defense chairman Cecilia Widegren, a member of the governing conservative Moderate Party.

The leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Stefan Löfven, said if there is a change of government in upcoming elections, the focus must be on borders. 

The annual Society and Defence, or “Folk och Försvaret” conference brings together the Swedish security and defense policy community, from politicians and the military to non-governmental organizations, as well as observers from abroad.

The Supreme Commander of the Swedish military, Sverker Göranson, told the newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet, that the military would defend all of Sweden, but it would not, however, be able to defend the entire country at once. According to Göranson, the military would be forced to make difficult choices about where to deploy its resources. Stockholm, he said, would remain a priority. 

Several Swedish defense politicians, including defense committee chairman Widegren, proposed that Nordic countries cooperate on air defense.

Sweden could, for example, use its air force to protect Norwegian and Finnish airspace against intruders and vice-versa. But some experts are skeptical.

Anders Nygren, a teacher at the National Defence University, said that the countries' most sensitive areas are too far apart. Sweden cannot protect the Norwegian Atlantic coast or the Finnish eastern border with Gripen attack aircraft in Luleå, Sweden, according to Nygren.

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