In 2020, Sweden’s government published a new version of Swedish Arctic policy, which covers various areas, such as international cooperation, climate change, research. This new policy also highlighted the importance of the region’s security and stability.
Even though Sweden is not a member of NATO and always had a neutrality policy, its new approach will be based on western defence policy cooperation. At the same time, Sweden will keep welcoming the EU and its participation in the Arctic Council. Moreover, Sweden will also deepen its cooperation with the United States on the basis of common interests in the Arctic.
It is highly likely that in the next 12 months Swedish Arctic policy will also strengthen its military cooperation with the neighbouring countries Finland and Norway, in order to guarantee security.
Key Judgment 1
It is highly likely that Sweden will strengthen its military presence in the region, due to the growing activity and influence of Russia.
- Fearing a future attack from Russia, Sweden, Norway, and Finland signed a defence and military cooperation agreement. In order to prevent a crisis and defend the High North, Sweden and the neighbouring countries will enhance their cooperation through various military exercises.
- Sweden’s fear is based on the fact that if Russia starts a conflict against Sweden, it will have an advantage due to its military capacity and its proximity to the target. Whereas Sweden would have to wait to receive reinforcements from the EU and the US. Moreover, Russia’s military presence in the region is higher than the American one.
- It is highly likely that Sweden, within its plan of military reinforcement, will focus on Gotland, since the small island holds a key position. Its location is fundamental because it is close to vital sea and air lanes.
- On one hand, Sweden and Russia cooperate on environmental and climate issues. On the other hand, Sweden is not willing to be unprepared in the event of a crisis in the region. As shown with the Ukraine attack, Russia was able to secretly prepare the attack and improvise in an effective way.
Key Judgment 2
It is highly likely that Swedish Arctic policy will prioritise and protect its core values, such as freedom of expression and human rights, over deeper cooperation with China.
- In the past years, Sweden has been the subject of attacks to its media and civil society. The Chinese embassy, initially under the guidance of Gui Congyou, interfered and threatened Swedish news media.
- Nonetheless, China participates in the Arctic Council and supports internal law, it acts in its own interests. This is the reason why Sweden fears a growing Chinese presence in the region. China is cooperating on a military level with Russia and is also building additional naval forces.
- It is highly likely that Sweden will not enhance its cooperation with China, due to its strong interest in the region, which could cause a crisis or the imbalance of the dynamics in the region. Its current cooperation with China is merely scientific and economic. China, at the same time, does not represent a key partner for the Swedish economy. China is ranked as the eighth exporter ($6M) and as the seventh importer ($5M) in Sweden as of August 2021.
Key Judgment 3
It is highly likely that the Swedish government will strengthen the Sami’s influence within the country.
- The cooperation between Sweden and the Nordic Government Officials Body of Sami Affairs is fundamental. Its goal is to preserve and develop Sami culture and influence in Sweden.
- It is highly likely that Swedish Arctic policy will keep promoting Sami’s traditions, culture, and language. All these factors are threatened by climate change and Sami’s cooperation is key in the region.
Intelligence cut-off date: 13th of December 2021