Swedish defense officials’ warning to brace for war as the nation nears NATO membership has prompted some panic and caused supplies to fly off shelves, according to reports.
“For a nation for whom peace has been a pleasant companion for almost 210 years, the idea that it is an immoveable constant is conveniently close at hand,” Swedish Civil Defense Minister Carl-Oskar Bohlin said at Folk och Försvars, or “Society and Defense,” annual national conference in Sälen on Sunday.
“But taking comfort in this conclusion has become more dangerous than it has been for a very long time,” he said, according to a government transcript. “Many have said it before me, but let me do so in an official capacity, more plainly and with naked clarity: There could be war in Sweden.”
The commander in chief of the Swedish armed forces, General Micael Byden, who visited the eastern front of Ukraine in December, also spoke to the conference on Sunday, warning all Swedes to prepare mentally for the possibility of war as their nation is just two steps short of NATO membership.
“We must understand how serious this situation really is and that people, down to the individual level, are preparing themselves mentally,” Bydén said, according to Euractiv.
Byden later told Aftonbladet newspaper that his intent, “is not to worry people; my ambition is to get more people to think about their own situation and their own responsibilities,” according to the BBC. Neighboring Finland, a recent NATO addition, was warned by Russian officials last month it would be the “first to suffer” should relations further deteriorate.
Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson issued a similar warning on Monday, saying, “An armed attack against Sweden cannot be ruled out,” GB News reported.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday that Turkey’s parliament appears set to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership in the coming weeks, Reuters reported. It then would need Hungary’s approval. Sweden remained neutral in the Second World War and has not seen an armed conflict since its short war against Norway in 1814. On Sunday, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told the conference Sweden is on track to meet NATO’s target of spending 2% of GDP on military defense, doubling spending since 2020, the BBC reported.
The Swedish children’s rights organization Bris reported an increased number of calls this week from youngsters concerned about of war after seeing posts on TikTok about the possibility.
“This was well prepared, it wasn’t something blurted out,” Bris spokeswoman Maja Dahl told the BBC. “They should have provided information meant for kids when they come out with this kind of information for grown-ups.”
Speaking to Swedish TV, ex-prime minister Magdalena Andersson reportedly said that while the security situation was serious, “it is not as if war is just outside the door.”
“People in Sweden are PANIC buying emergency supplies after the government and military warned that people have to be prepared for war,” the user @amuse, an account dedicated to supporting independent journalists, claimed in a post to its nearly 290,000 followers on X.
Sweden’s Civil Defense Ministry said Monday, “the government is now equipping Sweden for previously unthinkable scenarios such as heightened preparedness and extreme war.” “We are strengthening preparedness in several areas,” the statement said. “As part of this, the government is now giving the Swedish Agency for Community Protection and Preparedness (MSB) and the National Board of Health and Welfare the task of carrying out a supply analysis regarding the need for and access to healthcare products that are needed for good care to be provided.”
Bohlin’s speech appealed to Swedes who work in emergency preparedness, municipal commissioners, employees and private citizens to take on the responsibility of “situational awareness” and preparedness and consider volunteering for defense organization.
Bohlin argued that Putin’s attack in 2014 unified the Ukrainian people and gave them notice to start preparing response and resistance before the 2022 full-scale invasion.
“The world is facing a security outlook with greater risks than at any time since the end of the Second World War. We stand with Ukraine, with our allies, and with the rules-based international order, and we do so in word and deed as an arsenal of democracy,” the civil defense minister said. “All of this will demand more of us than before, and this begins with the realization that defending Sweden is a matter for all of us.”
“It may sound dark and dystopian,” he added. “But try to look at it the other way round. For the vast majority of us, our country is not a hotel room that we can take or leave; it isn’t a generic piece of land with which we feel no affinity. For the vast majority of us, this is our one and only true home.”
At the conference, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to Sweden to work with others to bolster weapons manufacturing to “cooperate, develop, and grow stronger together.” Sweden is among a group of nations training Ukrainian pilots, and the capital of Stockholm is also reportedly weighing sending advanced Gripen fighter jets to Ukraine, the BBC reported.
In a Telegram post, Russian lawmaker Aleksey Pushkov, an ally of Vladimir Putin, mocked the warnings of war from Swedish officials as nothing more than “anti-Russian paranoia.”
“Russian submarines have been fishing there for many years, and for some this has become the main occupation in life,” he wrote. “Apparently, this is how they try to give Sweden a geopolitical importance that it does not have. Sometimes it seems that some Swedish military personnel, as well as journalists, are almost dreaming of war.”