It is not without reason that Peter Hultqvist, the Swedish defense minister, said: “An armed attack on Sweden cannot be ruled out.” So he decided to spend nearly three billion euros, an increase of 40 percent, on defense. That is the largest investment since the Second World War.
“The Swedes are much closer to the fire than we are”, says Zandee. Russia regularly carries out military activities off the coast with submarines or they fly through the airspace without permission. “None of us notice that.”
Research by the Clingendeal Institute shows that 36 percent of the Dutch see Russia as a threat. “That is probably much higher there. So there is more room for society and politics to do what is needed. Sweden is prepared to take big steps.”
On the road to war
International security has been increasingly under discussion in recent weeks. Because of the outbreak of fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, but also because of the years of conflict in Crimea, Libya and Syria. In addition to these military interventions, the Russians also play a major role in what he calls ‘modern warfare’. “Think of the interference in campaigns. They are working on it day and night.”
During the Cold War, Russia was a major player on the world stage and could scare everyone’s minds militarily. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the crumbling of the country, the Russians in the 1990s surrendered considerably. Since President Vladimir Putin came to power, the country has been working on the way to once again establish a militarily strong Russia.
‘We think it’s so normal’
Still, Sweden is not the only country that is going to spend more money on defense. Much to the chagrin of US President Donald Trump, nearly all NATO member states spend too little money on defense. According to the agreements, this should be at least 2 percent of the national income. The Netherlands does not meet that agreement either, but Minister Ank Bijleveld (CDA) wants to change that.
Yesterday Bijleveld presented the Future vision 2035. It states that the Netherlands must also spend extra money. At the moment 1.5 percent of the national income goes to defense. In 2024, our country should be at the required 2 percent. “Our safety must be worth something to us,” said Bijleveld. “We all think it’s so normal.”
Compliance with the NATO standard and European obligations alone will cost the Netherlands between 6.5 and 8 billion euros.
“But it is not the case that Russia is ready to move like a steamroller to Rotterdam,” says Zandee. “They no longer have that strength, but they could take the Baltic States in no time. Fortunately, those countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – ed.) Are members of NATO. This also applies to Poland.”
This does not apply to Sweden and Finland. The latter shares a 1,600-kilometer border with the Russians. Zandee therefore finds it understandable that they invest in their defense. And not that economical either. “If you do not oppose it, you open the door. You have to deter. If you do not have an alarm system, a burglar will also come in far too easily. Sweden and Finland have to do it themselves from their neutral status. The funny thing is that there are has never been a majority in the country to join NATO. ”
But what is Russia doing in Sweden? The country is one of the most stable countries in the world and is not a former Soviet region. “It is the fringes of Russia where they would like to exert influence. It is also a form of deterrence for the Russians. From a historical perspective, Moscow has to fend off the aggressive West, but that is just a sales pitch. Destabilizing Sweden is something you make the EU weaker and that’s what they want. “