Why Sweden exercises in the Baltic Sea

In the light of the changes in the surrounding world, the Armed Forces is operating in an increasingly complex security policy situation. Civil as well as military presence in the Baltic Sea is constantly increasing and international tension also affects the Nordic countries. This situation places high demands on the defence and reinforces the need for close international cooperation as well as a well-developed total defence at home.

The most important responsibility of the HMS Helsingborg is to protect and defend Sweden’s integrity and to act as the eyes and ears of Sweden, on location in the Baltic Sea. Photo: Hampus Hagstedt

In the wake of the corona pandemic, the situation in the surrounding world is more unpredictable than ever. Major General Lena Hallin, Director of the Military Intelligence and Security Service (MUST), concludes that the threat is becoming more complex, with growing competition between superpowers in several fields.

"We have to be prepared to face a changed global security policy situation", she says.

Lena Hallin, chef för Must.
Lena Hallin, Director of the Military Intelligence and Security Service (MUST). Photo: Axel Öberg/Försvarsmakten

What further complicates the threat is the fact that it is becoming increasingly common for states to use information operations, cyber attacks and the like as a method to achieve their goals. Moreover, the character of conflicts has changed, blurring the boundaries between internal and external threats.

"MUST identifies, analyses and reports external threats aimed at Sweden. The new Protective Security Act reinforces our mandate. Another key factor is cooperation, nationally as well as internationally. This is the way to face the current threats," says Lena Hallin.

The Baltic Sea – a key area

The captain of HMS Helsingborg, Anders Hecker, is well aware of the conditions in the Baltic Sea. The area is of high interest and many nations regularly exercise or conduct reconnaissance there.

"When we set out to sea, we are always on stand-by and we constantly conduct real- time sea surveillance."

The most important responsibility of the HMS Helsingborg is to protect and defend Sweden’s integrity and to act as the eyes and ears of Sweden, on location. The primary task is to counteract potential violations of Swedish sea territory. International cooperation and joint exercises form an essential part of the surveillance.

"By exercising together and sharing information with other nations, we build confidence and create a solid understanding of the situation in the Baltic Sea."

Liberty of action and resilience

A strong defence is paramount. Major General Michael Claesson, Chief of Plans and Policy, summarises the concept in two words: liberty of action and resilience.

The Armed Forces is part of Sweden’s liberty of action, for the defence of Swedish security. This includes a strong military as well as a strong civil defence.

Resilience is ultimately about all sectors of society assuming their responsibility. Together, we need to build a robust defence that deters war.

If the Swedish state is to have an effective toolbox, many tools are needed, in harmony and balance. Preparedness for a worst case scenario may come at a high price, but it is better to be prepared than not, he says.