WASHINGTON — Sweden and the US signed a statement of intent that promises closer defense collaboration between the two nations, at a time when the northern European nation is increasingly concerned about Russian activities.
The statement is nonbinding and includes few specific deliverables inside. But in an exclusive interview with Defense News TV, Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist said the language is nonetheless important for the ongoing defense relationship between Washington and Stockholm.
“This is a very important statement for Sweden, and it’s also something to show that the trans-Atlantic link is very important for Sweden and our part of Europe,” Hultqvist said Tuesday. “We haven’t had this sort of umbrella before with the United States. We have had a lot of specific agreements, but not an overall umbrella.”
Hultqvist was not shy in acknowledging that the driving force behind the statement is the ongoing security situation with Russia. That is borne out in the text of the statement, which Hultqvist signed Wednesday with US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.
“The security challenges are greater and more complex than in decades,” the introduction to the statement read. “Regional powers are testing their strength against neighbors, other States and international institutions, and our security is increasingly affected by threats from terrorism and extremist violence.”
The statement includes seven main areas of focus:
- Deepening the “dialogue and information sharing” between the two nations, with a focus on “improved understanding of the security environment in Northern Europe.”
- Increasing military-to-military dialogue.
- Increasing interoperability through training and exercises, while recognizing that “training and exercises sent a distinct political signal.”
- Continuing to develop bilateral and multinational staff exercises.
- Procuring capabilities for the current fight, focusing on “armament cooperation in air power and underwater warfare as well as related sensors, weapons and platforms.”
- Developing capabilities for the future fight, again with a focus on air power and underwater warfare, as well as on cyber capabilities.
- Increasing cooperation in ongoing multinational operations, such as through the UN and NATO.
During his interview, Hultqvist emphasized the importance of the information-sharing aspect, not just in terms of intelligence but in terms of a flow of analysis between the two nations. He said that an increased number of exercises between Sweden and the US is “a very strong security statement.”
As to technology, the minister expressed a confident “yes” when asked whether to expect future collaborations between the two nations, but avoided getting into the nature of what kind of new sensors his government is focusing on.
“It’s enough to say we’re working with sensors. I think that’s enough,” he said. “This is a very important part of the underwater systems and aircraft systems, so that is always very closely connected to capability to operate. So I think that is an important part of our systems.”
For more from the exclusive interview with Hultqvist, watch this Sunday’s episode of Defense News TV.