Field Study 3 visit to Sweden for Senior Course 140
From 8 to 10 June 2022, Senior Course 140 visited Sweden as the next stop on their third Field Study trip. Over the two days, Course Members heard briefings on defence from different perspectives – political, military, and academic – at the Swedish Defence University and visited the Berga Navy Base, where they attended a mobile demonstration from the 1st Marine Regiment.
The NATO Defense College (NDC) delegation was welcomed on 8 June with a reception hosted by the Swedish Defence University. On 9 June, the delegation attended lectures at the Swedish Defence University, where they were welcomed by the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Robert Egnell.
Sweden has been a partner within NATO’s Partnership for Peace since 1994. In May 2022, the country submitted its official letter of application to become a NATO Ally.
The Swedish Defence University has been delivering professional military education for more than 200 years at all levels, as explained by its Vice-Chancellor. He described the University as a “meeting point” for military and civilians from Sweden and other countries to deepen their knowledge of military issues. Professional military education remains the University’s core task and Sweden’s status as a NATO partner means that the institution takes part in the NATO Conference of Commandants hosted every year by the NDC.
The military perspective on Swedish defence was provided by General Micael Bydén, Sweden’s Supreme Commander, who touched upon topics such as the current situation in Ukraine, Sweden’s support to the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the different assets that Sweden would bring to the Alliance if they became NATO members. He also answered questions from Course Members on different issues, including the Swedish population’s stance regarding their military.
Continuity and change in Sweden’s security policy was the next topic that Course Members were briefed on. Johan Frisell, Head of the European Security Policy Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, gave an overview of how Sweden’s security policies and positions had evolved over time in relation to the prevailing context. He outlined cooperation with other countries and explained how applying for NATO membership represented a real turning point for Sweden, not least on the issue of neutrality.
The last briefing of the morning was delivered by Major General Jonas Wikman, Deputy Commander Joint Forces Command, who focused on active defence of the country and on the joint operations conducted in that context. He outlined the area of operation and the different dynamics and challenges faced by the military; the importance of cooperation in the success of operations; and how active defence is crucial in order to be “ahead of the game”.
In the afternoon, the Swedish Minister of Defence, Peter Hultqvist, talked about his country’s defence policy in a changing security environment. His first words were about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and he described how this situation had impacted Sweden. He went on to briefly describe Sweden's defence policy, highlighting the importance of activities such as building capabilities and the dedicated multilateral agreements Sweden had entered with many countries. The minister stressed that this was a period of change as well as a period of unity.
The academic perspective on Swedish defence was delivered by Dr Magnus Christiansson, Professor at the Swedish Defence University, who briefed Course Members on “Sweden in NATO” and “the Nordic-Baltic Dimension”. He provided an overview of the different steps in the process that led the country to its application for NATO membership.
The Royal Swedish Navy and the Baltic Sea were the main focus of the briefing delivered by Chief of Navy Staff Rear Admiral Ewa Skoog Haslum, a graduate of the NDC Generals, Flag Officers, and Ambassador´s Course (GFOAC). She offered an overview of the vessels at the Navy’s disposal, explained how the Navy’s budget is allocated, and described its operational environment and the potential impact of joining NATO. She also stressed that the Swedish Navy was a people-focused organization.
The closing remarks throughout the day, after each of the briefings, was delivered by Course Members from Committee 2. The day ended with a summary and conclusions by Professor Robert Egnell and an address by NDC Commandant LGEN Olivier Rittimann, followed by an exchange of plaques.
On their second full day in Sweden, the NDC delegation visited the Berga Navy Base for a field visit. This base is the home of the 1st Marine Regiment, the 4th Naval Warfare Flotilla and the Södertörn Group. Upon arrival, Lieutenant Colonel Joakim Kindahl, from the Swedish Marine Regiment, and Commodore Peter Thomsson, Deputy Commander of the 4th Naval Warfare Flotilla, welcomed the delegation.
Before moving to the field, the two officers explained the general operational environment in which they worked, the main responsibilities of both the Marines and the Flotilla, the units making up these entities and the type of cooperation they regularly conduct with other countries, especially Finland.
A mobile demonstration by Marines from Sweden and Finland took place before the watchful eyes of the NDC delegation. This was followed by a static presentation by the battalion, where Course Members were able to ask questions and had the opportunity to see all the equipment used from a close distance.