Sweden is in a serious international situation, facing growing threats from foreign powers such as Russia at a time when the country is at a key stage in its accession to NATO, according to the Swedish Security Service’s annual threat assessment review on Wednesday.

The Swedish Security Service painted a bleak picture of the country’s security situation, noting that the intelligence threat from Russia, but also China and Iran, remains high and has even worsened since last year’s report.

In the report, Säpo identifies “above all Russia” as the greatest security threat to Sweden. However, it is also noted that Russia, China, and Iran interact with each other to some extent.

“The threats to Sweden are complex. We see that foreign powers and violent extremists act in a way that means the threats merge and are reinforced. They fuel division and polarisation,” Head of the Swedish Security Service Charlotte von Essen said on Wednesday.

“Foreign powers have a high capacity for different types of attacks, and we know that security threats to Sweden and Swedish interests are ongoing,” she added.

Since the terrorist threat level was raised in August (to level 4 on a scale of 5), the country has faced several concrete threats of attacks, according to Säpo, increasing the pressure on Swedish society.
Extension to the Arctic

The report also points to new areas where threats are growing, such as space and the Arctic, where the Swedish Security Service says Russia and China are already engaged in security-threatening activities, albeit for different reasons.

China’s ambition is to become a new polar superpower, as melting Arctic ice is expected to open up new shipping routes that Beijing hopes to incorporate into its New Silk Road project.

Meanwhile, Russia’s main interest is in Sweden’s regional military capabilities. This is all the more true as Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO will extend the Alliance’s borders in the region, which displeases Moscow, which wants to remain a significant player in the region.

This comes after Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister for the Far East and the Arctic, Yuri Trutnev, last week issued a veiled threat to Norway over its management of the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, insisting that the rights and benefits acquired by Russia over the archipelago ‘cannot be reduced or infringed’.

But despite Trutnev’s claims and tensions over the war in Ukraine, Norway has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to the 1920 Svalbard Treaty, which guarantees equal rights to Russian residents of the archipelago.
A particular geopolitical moment

Säpo’s assessment comes when Sweden finds itself in the middle of a tense geopolitical situation.

Prompted by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Stockholm applied to join the transatlantic alliance almost two years ago and is now approaching the finishing line of its arduous NATO membership journey, with Hungary expected to give the go-ahead soon.

Hungary is the only NATO member not to have ratified its accession, with Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party repeatedly delaying the vote, citing grievances over Sweden’s criticism of Budapest’s rule of law record.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson is expected to travel to Budapest on Friday to meet his Hungarian counterpart ahead of a long-delayed vote in the Hungarian parliament next Monday on Sweden’s bid to join NATO.

However, Stockholm’s NATO membership is “not a matter of negotiation”, Swedish Defence Minister Pål Jonson told Euractiv earlier this week.

“As future allies, we can have a dialogue (…), and then we will see in more detail what matters of cooperation they would be interested in exploring,” Jonson said.

Source » euractiv