Voice of America News
November 18, 2022

Swedish Military Chief Pledges Support for NATO Efforts

Sweden is committed to NATO’s globe-spanning 360-degree approach to confronting both today’s and tomorrow’s challenges, and that includes both Russia and China, the top Swedish military official told an audience in Washington this week.

“As of today, we see no alarming Russian movements along our borders,” Micael Byden, the supreme commander of Swedish armed forces, said Thursday during an event at the Swedish Embassy in Washington….

…Sweden does not “exclude anything, we stay alert,” Byden said, noting that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to a “completely new security order in Europe.”

Byden named the joint applications to join NATO by Sweden and Finland last spring among the most notable features of that new order.

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Byden said he initially thought to himself: “When you enter a new organization, a new family, you need to prove yourself. That has not been the case.”

But he pledged that “Sweden will be a net contributor from day one” and “will contribute in strategic depth, increased situational awareness and strong interoperable capabilities.”

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Byden said he has submitted recommendations to his government to strengthen the country’s military with additional standing units, new equipment and platforms, and a greater number of conscript soldiers.

“Maintaining a high-degree of situational awareness has been a key priority,” he said, emphasizing that “we fully embrace [NATO’s] 360-degree perspective.”

NATO documents describe that 360-degree approach as applying to defense in “the land, air, maritime, cyber and space domains, and against all threats and challenges.”

“We have always kept our eyes and ears towards Russia. We know Russia as our opponent,” Byden said. “We realize now that there are other countries we also need to know more about, because of [their] ambitions, and that would be China.”

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He also said Sweden needs to expand its knowledge about some of those challenges facing the alliance.

“First of all, we still need to learn about China and what China is doing, that’s where we are. By ‘we,’ I mean Sweden,” he said.

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[B]oth Denmark and Finland have officially adopted the term “systemic rival,” first used by the EU Commission in March 2019, to describe their view of Beijing.

Byden, a trained fighter pilot whose career has included an assignment as defense attache at the Swedish Embassy in Washington and chief of staff of the Swedish Air Force, said Sweden is eager to participate in NATO joint activities, including air policing and participating in an enhanced forward presence along NATO’s eastern border as soon as it becomes a full member.

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