Foreign policy and defense
Sweden is a nation in Northern Europe. Its capital city is Stockholm. Neutrality and freedom of alliance have long been guiding principles in Swedish foreign policy. Sweden stood outside the two world wars of the 20th century and then took an active, internationalist stance. After the end of the Cold War and the EU’s entry into 1995, the EU has become the most important foreign and security policy arena. In 2014, Sweden became the first country in the world to officially pursue feminist foreign policy.
Sweden has lived in peace for over 200 years. After the Napoleonic wars – when Sweden lost Finland (1809) but became part of a personnel union with Norway (1814) – neutrality and freedom of alliance became the guiding force in foreign policy. Sweden also declared itself neutral during the two world wars of the 20th century, and escaped fighting and occupation.
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Sweden for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
After the end of World War II in 1945, it was decided that alliance-free politics should be pursued in peace, “aimed at neutrality in war”. The idea was to avoid political engagement and binding that could entail risks of being drawn into major political contradictions. The geographical location on the outskirts of Europe is an asset for maintaining such a security policy neutrality doctrine.
During the Cold War, Sweden still held a strategic position between the Western defense alliance NATO and the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact in the east. Despite the declared alliance freedom, it has later emerged that Sweden had widespread cooperation with the Western powers.
The end of the Cold War in the early 1990s created new conditions. Prior to joining the EU, the wording of foreign policy was changed to deal with military alliance freedom with “opportunity” for neutrality. The security policy doctrine that prevailed since the 1940s was further enlightened in 2002, when the word neutrality was only used to describe what had been.
Within the EU, Sweden participates in defense cooperation in the form of peacekeeping tasks and joint response forces for crisis management.
Although military alliance freedom officially prevails, since 1994 Sweden has also participated in NATO’s Partnership for Peace Partnership (PFF), and has contributed to NATO-led efforts in Kosovo and Afghanistan. Sweden is also one of five countries that in 2014 were offered enhanced cooperation with NATO within the framework of the Enhanced Opportunity Program (EOP). Furthermore, the country has entered into special defense agreements with Finland, which is also outside NATO, and with the US (see below).
As an EU member, Sweden joined the Schengen cooperation in the spring of 2001 on open borders. Sweden is one of the strongest proponents of EU enlargement with new member states.
Sweden has been working closely with neighboring countries in the Nordic countries for a long time. The parliaments of the countries have exchanges through the Nordic Council, which was formed in 1952, and at government level, cooperation takes place through the Nordic Council of Ministers, which was formed in 1971. Passport freedom and a common labor market apply in the Nordic countries since 1954. In addition to Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland and Sweden, the three autonomous areas of the Faroe Islands are counted., Greenland and Åland as members.
Sweden’s continued international commitment has largely been expressed within the framework of the UN, which is a cornerstone of Swedish foreign and security policy. The UN’s second secretary general was the Swedish Dag Hammarskjöld (1953–1961). Sweden has always been one of the UN’s largest donors, both financially and with staff. In recent years, Sweden has provided the largest aid per capita. The politicians have decided that aid is equivalent to 1 percent of gross national income (GNI). A large part of the international appropriations is channeled through the UN, the EU and the World Bank. About half of the aid budget goes to bilateral aid, directly to a single country. Sweden has provided bilateral assistance to 125 countries, but the government decided in 2007 to reduce the number to make aid more effective. Today, the number of bilateral aid countries is around 35. Most aid goes to African countries, although Afghanistan is the largest individual recipient and Palestine is also high on the list.
When the Social Democrat-led government took office in the fall of 2014, the then-incoming Foreign Minister Margot Wallström launched feminist foreign policy. A cornerstone is three “rs”: rights, representation and resources – women should be fully covered by human rights, participate in decision-making and have equal access to funds and assets. The policy has been criticized but also attracted attention and gained success among both countries and organizations.
Sweden introduced general military duty in 1901 and, after the Second World War, invested in a strong defense. The standing forces were few, but through rapid mobilization, the country could provide significant resources. As a result of the neutrality policy, the bulk of the military equipment was manufactured in a growing Swedish defense industry.
After the end of the Cold War, Sweden gradually reduced its personnel in the 1990s and closed down the regiments. The former so-called invasion defense was replaced by a much smaller “intervention defense”. All fewer did military service. In 2010, the military duty became “dormant” during peacetime as well, and the defense force instead had to hire employees or contracted soldiers. But in 2017, the government decided to reintroduce the duty to design and do basic education, as the defense force failed to recruit enough people and the security situation had deteriorated. In 2018, around 4,000 young people were called in to do military service and two years later the figure was 5,000. The law on military service now includes both women and men.
The deterioration of the security policy situation in Europe is considered to have occurred not least since unrest broke out in Ukraine and Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. It was cited as the reason when Sweden 2016 entered into a bilateral defense agreement with the US, and 2018 a tripartite agreement with Finland and the US on deeper military cooperation..
Sweden has contributed to UN peacekeeping since the first peacekeeping mission was launched, in the Middle East in 1948. A total of over 80,000 Swedes have participated in peacekeeping operations around the world. Today, around 350 Swedish military, police and civilians are active in about ten operations, the vast majority of which are in the UN operation Minusma in Mali.
FACTS – DEFENSE
Army: 6 850 men (2017)
The air Force: 2,700 men (2017)
The fleet: 2 100 men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 1.0 percent (2017)
Military spending’s share of the state budget: 2.2 percent (2017)
The repo rate is lowered
The Riksbank lowers its key policy rate by as much as 1.75 percentage points, to 2 percent, to curb the effects of the global financial crisis.
Valallians on the left
S, MP and V announce that they have formed the election cooperation The red-green, and are prepared to form a coalition government in the event of a possible election victory in 2010.
Wine & Spirits are sold
The Swedish state sells the liquor manufacturer and distributor Vin & Sprit to the French liquor giant Pernod Ricard. The company is the first to be sold by several state companies that the bourgeois government has decided to privatize.
Signal voltage stroke is assumed
The Riksdag voted in favor of the much-disputed so-called FRA Act, which gives the Swedish Defense Forces radio agency the right to signal on communications via telephone or the Internet across Sweden’s borders. Harsh criticism has been directed at the law which is considered to violate civil liberties and rights.
Changed property taxation
The property tax is abolished and replaced by a municipal property fee of up to SEK 6,000, which means sharply reduced costs for homeowners in large cities.