In late 2012, then chief of defense Sverker Göransson famously said that Sweden would only be able to defend itself for one week in one place. Commenting on that statement, Bydén said:
“We need to remember this statement was made several years ago and referred to a specific scenario where Sweden would stand alone against an invading aggressor. A lot has happened since then and the threats we see now are very complex. It’s what we call full-spectrum warfare, meaning it’s about information operations and campaigns to influence the whole society, both the military and civil sectors.”
The Swedish Armed Forces have the capacity to meet all these threats, Bydén insisted. However, Johan Wiktorin of the Royal Swedish Academy of War Studies has carried out an assessment of Sweden’s military capacity and put it on number two on a five-point scale.
“It’s interesting assessment,” Bydén said, “but we have a new focus now which is national defense”. He added that the military’s strength lies in “our competent personnel and our advanced weapons systems”.
“We are relevant and we can take care of a lot of the threats that we are facing. It will hurt to come to Sweden as a military force,” said Bydén, adding that the Armed Forces are “agile, our units are on high alert and we carry out daily operations over the Baltics”.
Speaking about the current challenges for the Swedish Armed Forces, Bydén said there are four main ones. First, to raise the level of military capacities in the short-term. Second, to ensure that the Armed Forces carry out the correct assessments of the development of threats against Sweden. Third, to man the organization with the right people. Fourth, to focus on the long-term, beyond 2020, by adding enough funds, staff and equipment.
“Sweden has never had better soldiers than it has today,” said Bydén. “The younger generation is better educated and more experienced, with half of our army officers having been involved in international missions and in war situations.”
Sweden’s latest defense bill outlines a shift towards national defense, with the budget for international operations nearly cut in half. Asked what impact this will have, Bydén said:
“The ambition is to lower Sweden’s footprint in international missions. An example: We had more than 500 soldiers in Afghanistan. Today, our main mission is in Mali, where we have 250 soldiers. And the total number of Swedish soldiers and marines abroad should be around 350.”
However, Bydén insisted that Sweden’s focus on national defense does not mean the country will neglect international relations, which “are still important”.