Relations with Sweden
NATO and Sweden actively cooperate in peace and security operations and have developed practical cooperation in many other areas including education and training, and defence reform.
Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (Nov. 2014)
- Swedish cooperation with NATO is based on a longstanding policy of military non-alignment and a firm national consensus, and focuses on areas that match joint objectives.
- Cooperation has been reinforced over the years since Sweden joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace in 1994 and became a member of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 1997.
- Sweden is one of NATO's most active partners and a valued contributor to NATO-led operations and missions in the Balkans and Afghanistan – it is one of five countries that has enhanced opportunities for dialogue and cooperation with NATO.
- An important priority for cooperation is to develop capabilities and maintain the ability of the Swedish armed forces to work with those of NATO and other partner countries in multinational peace-support operations.
- In the current security context with heightened concerns about Russian military activities, NATO is stepping up cooperation with Sweden and Finland in the Baltic region.
- Sweden actively supports the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, hosting the Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations at the Swedish Armed Forces International Centre.
- Sweden’s role in training the forces of NATO partner countries is greatly valued, as is its support for a number of Trust Fund projects in other partner countries focused on issues related to demilitarization and defence transformation.
More background information
Sweden is one of five countries (known as ‘Enhanced Opportunities Partners’) that make particularly significant contributions to NATO operations and other Alliance objectives. As such, the country has enhanced opportunities for dialogue and cooperation with the Allies.
In the current security context with heightened concerns about Russian military activities, NATO is stepping up cooperation with Sweden and Finland. This means expanding exchanges of information on hybrid warfare, coordinating training and exercises, and developing better joint situational awareness to address common threats and develop joint actions, if needed. Also underway are talks on how to include the two partners in the enhanced NATO Response Force (NRF) and regular consultations on security in the Baltic Sea region.
Moreover, at NATO’s Wales Summit in September 2014, Sweden and Finland signed a memorandum of understanding on Host Nation Support, which addresses issues related to the provision of civil and military assistance to Allied forces located on, or in transit through, their territory in peacetime, crisis or war. The agreement was ratified by the Swedish parliament on 1 June 2016.
Sweden is an active contributor to NATO-led operations. Its first contribution dates back to 1995 when it sent a battalion to the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since 1999, Sweden has supported the peacekeeping force in Kosovo (KFOR).
Swedish personnel worked alongside Allied forces as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan from 2003 to the completion of ISAF’s mission in 2014. They provided specialist units and logistical support and led the multinational Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Mazar-e Sharif from 2006. Sweden is currently supporting the follow-on mission (known as Resolute Support) to further train, assist and advise the Afghan security forces and institutions. Sweden has also contributed over USD 11 million to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund.
In April 2011, Sweden contributed to Operation Unified Protector (OUP), NATO’s military operation in Libya under United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973. The Swedish Air Force deployed eight JAS Gripen aircraft to the Sigonella airbase in Sicily, Italy to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya, supported by an air-to-air refuelling capable C-130.
The country participates in numerous Partnership for Peace (PfP) exercises. It makes a number of units available, on a case-by-case basis, for multinational operations, training and exercises, including those led by the European Union (EU) and NATO. The Swedish Armed Forces aim to be able to sustain up to 2,000 personnel continuously deployed on operations, either nationally or internationally. This pool of forces includes significant land, maritime and air assets, including mechanised and armoured units, submarine, corvettes, combat and transport aircraft with a deployable airbase unit, combat and combat service support elements, as well as specialist support.
Sweden participates in the NATO Response Force – a highly ready and technologically advanced, multinational force made up of land, air, maritime and Special Operations Forces (SOF) components that can be deployed quickly, wherever needed. Beyond its operational role, the NATO Response Force also serves to promote greater cooperation in education and training, increased exercises and better use of technology.
Sweden’s close ties with its neighbours – Denmark, Finland and Norway – are reflected in its participation in Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO), a further practical and efficient way for like-minded states to contribute to regional and international security and to practise cooperation, including pooling and sharing of capabilities. In Sweden’s case, this activity is pursued alongside the Nordic Battlegroup and cooperation with countries around the Baltic Sea and in northern Europe.
Sweden, along with Finland, regularly take part in consultations with the Allies on security in the Baltic Sea region.
The country participates in the Operational Capabilities Concept (OCC), which uses an evaluation and feedback programme to develop and train partner land, maritime, air or Special Operations Forces units that seek to meet NATO standards. Since 2011, Sweden has participated regularly in the Baltic Region Training Event – a series of planning, training and execution events for enhancing interoperability and building capabilities in the Baltic States, which is conducted by Allied Air Command Ramstein, Germany.
Defence and security sector reform
Participating in peacekeeping and peace-support operations alongside NATO Allies has complemented Sweden’s own process of military transformation. Participation in the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP) influences Swedish planning and activities, aimed at developing the capabilities and enhancing the interoperability of the Swedish Armed Forces.
Sweden is contributing to the development of the EU Battlegroup concept. It is cooperating with Estonia, Finland and Norway, among other countries, in the development of a multinational rapid-reaction force for EU-led peace-support operations. During periods that the Swedish parts of the force are not on stand-by for EU needs, they will be available for operations led by both the UN and NATO.
Sweden joined the Strategic Airlift Interim Solution (SALIS) in March 2006 and is also participating in the Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) initiative. Designed to meet the strategic airlift requirements of SAC member nations for national missions, SAC resources can be used for NATO, UN, EU or other international missions.
Sweden’s role in training the forces of NATO partner countries is greatly valued by the Allies. In April 1999, NATO formally recognised the military training centre in Almnäs as a PfP Training Centre. In 2004, the Centre moved to new premises in Kungsängen, north of Stockholm. The activities of the Swedish Armed Forces International Centre (SWEDINT) include exercises and training, with a focus on humanitarian assistance, rescue services, peace-support operations, civil emergency planning and the democratic control of the armed forces. The Centre regularly organises courses and training exercises within the PfP. In January 2012 – in support of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and related Resolutions on strengthening the role of women in peace and security – the Nordic countries established a Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations, to make sure that gender perspectives continue to be integrated into military operations.
Sweden continues to support a number of Trust Fund projects conducted in other partner countries, focused on areas such as the retraining and reintegration of military personnel, stockpile management and the destruction of surplus weapons.
Civil emergency planning
Civil emergency planning is a major area of bilateral cooperation. The aim is for Sweden to be able to cooperate with NATO Allies in providing mutual support in dealing with the consequences of a major accident or disaster in the Euro-Atlantic area. In line with this, Sweden has participated in numerous NATO crisis management exercises, in addition to several maritime exercises. Additionally, Swedish civil resources have been listed with the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC). Units include search and rescue teams, medical experts and protection and decontamination units.
Sweden regularly conducts major multifunctional civil-military-police exercises (the Viking exercises) which involve many other nations as well as participants from international organisations, non-governmental organisations and agencies.
Science and environment
Under the Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme, scientists from Sweden have participated in numerous advanced research workshops and seminars on a range of topics. Topics have included information security, mesoscopic physics, the environmental role of wetlands, the protection of civilian infrastructure against terrorism, and human trafficking. Sweden has also participated in a multi-year project to establish a continuous monitoring and risk assessment system concerning munitions dumped in the Baltic Sea, which pose a serious environmental and security problem.
NATO and Sweden detail areas of cooperation and timelines in Sweden’s Individual Partnership Cooperation Programme (IPCP), which is jointly agreed for a two-year period. Key areas include security and peacekeeping cooperation, crisis management and civil emergency planning.
Participation in the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP) helps develop the interoperability and capabilities of Swedish forces, which may be made available for NATO training, exercises and multinational crisis management and peace-support operations.
Since joining PfP, Sweden has played an active role and offers expertise to other partners and Allies, with a special focus on peacekeeping, civil emergency planning and civil-military cooperation.
1994: Sweden joins the Partnership for Peace (PfP).
1995: Sweden joins the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP).
1996: Sweden contributes forces to the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
1997: Sweden joins the newly created Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council.
1999: Swedish forces participate in the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo.
SWEDINT, the Swedish Armed Forces International Centre, is designated a PfP Training Centre.
2001: Swedish forces join NATO-led forces in Afghanistan.
2008: Sweden hosts a live demonstration, involving NATO Allies and Swedish civilian and military forces, to test new ways of effectively sharing critical information in emergency situations (Exercise Viking 2008).
September 2008: Sweden conducts a joint exercise with NATO in Enköping designed to enhance civil-military cooperation during civil emergency.
March 2010: Sweden co-hosts a seminar “NATO’s New Strategic Concept – Comprehensive Approach to Crisis Management” with Finland.
April 2010: Sweden participates in a NATO Response Force (NRF) maritime exercise (Brilliant Mariner).
May 2010: Sweden participates in an international cyber defence exercise (Baltic Cyber Shield) organised by several Swedish governmental institutions and the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence.
2011: Sweden conducts multinational Exercise Viking 2011 with international organisations and NGOs participating in the operations.
April 2011: Sweden decides to contribute to Operation Unified Protector, NATO’s military operation in Libya under UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973.
January 2012: A Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations is established, hosted by the Swedish Armed Forces International Centre.
January 2013: NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen visits Sweden to discuss how to further strengthen cooperation.
2013: Sweden contributes to the NATO Response Force and participates in Exercise Steadfast Jazz, which served to certify the NRF rotation for 2014.
January 2014: NATO’s Secretary General visits Sweden to discuss further potential for the relationship.
February 2014: Sweden and Finland participate in Iceland Air Meet 2014 under the command of Norway, which had deployed to Iceland to provide airborne surveillance and interception capabilities as part of NATO’s mission to meet Iceland’s peacetime preparedness needs.
September 2014: At the Wales Summit, Sweden is identified as one of five countries that make particularly significant contributions to NATO operations and other Alliance objectives, which will have enhanced opportunities for dialogue and cooperation with the Allies. Along with Finland, Sweden signs a memorandum of understanding on Host Nation Support, which addresses issues related to the provision of civil and military assistance to Allied forces located on, or in transit through, their territory in peacetime, crisis or war.
January 2015: Following the completion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operation in Afghanistan in December 2014, Sweden starts contributing to the follow-on NATO-led mission (“Resolute Support”) to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces and institutions.
9-10 June 2015: The Director General of the NATO International Military Staff, Air Marshal Sir Christopher Harper, visits Ronneby air base and Stockholm, where he meets the Chief of Defence Staff of the Swedish Armed Forces, Lt Gen Gyllensporre. He commends Sweden for being a pro-active and effective contributor to international security.
12 June 2015: NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow visits Stockholm, where he welcomes the country’s deep partnership with the Alliance in a speech to the “Folk och Försvar” (People and Defence) forum. He also meets Foreign Minister Margot Wallström and Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist.
10 November 2015: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomes efforts to strengthen defence cooperation among Nordic Allies and partners during talks with Nordic Defence Ministers in Stockholm. During his visit, the Secretary General also meets with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Foreign Minister Margot Wallström and members of the Swedish Parliamentary Committees on Defence and Foreign Affairs.
1 December 2015: The Secretary General has talks with Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, along with Finnish Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Timo Soini, on the margins of NATO’s meetings of foreign ministers in Brussels. They discuss ongoing work to expand exchanges of information, including on hybrid warfare, coordinating training and exercises, and developing better joint situational awareness to help NATO, Finland and Sweden more effectively to address common threats and develop joint actions, if needed. Also underway are talks on how to include the two partners in the enhanced NATO Response Force and regular consultations on security in the Baltic Sea region.
20 April 2016: Sweden participates in two days of air exercises in the Baltic region alongside NATO and partner air forces, practising emergency responses and sharpening cooperation.
27-28 April 2016: NATO’s Chairman of the Military Committee, General Petr Pavel, visits Sweden for discussions with met with the Defence Minister and the Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces to discuss regional security challenges and opportunities for enhanced military cooperation.
19-20 May 2016: The Swedish foreign minister participates in a meeting with NATO foreign ministers devoted to NATO-EU cooperation.
8-9 July 2016: At the NATO Summit in Warsaw, the Allies underline the importance of further strengthening cooperation with Finland and Sweden, including through regular political consultations, shared situational awareness, and joint exercises, in order to respond to common challenges in a timely and effective manner. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven joins Summit discussions on current security challenges in Europe and on sustaining support for Afghanistan.