Foreign powers operating in a grey area


Foreign powers are operating in a grey area between peace and armed conflict to gain an advantage to be used against Sweden. The attacks are aimed at all sectors of Swedish society. In order to handle this threat, Sweden must become more resilient.

The intelligence activities carried out by foreign powers have broadened and become more in-depth. Various lawful and unlawful methods are used, from information gathering to influence operations, strategic acquisitions, electronic attacks, diplomatic pressure and displays of military power.

“Foreign powers operate in a grey area between peace and armed conflict, through continuous coordinated activities. The purpose for these foreign powers is to benefit their own set of security policy objectives by creating an advantage big enough to avoid an armed conflict. The threats posed by the grey area and the threats posed by military measures complement each other”, states Kennet Alexandersson, Senior Analyst at the Swedish Security Service.

There are approximately 15 states engaged in various forms of intelligence gathering in Sweden. Russia, but also China, are two of the state actors who have an intent to weaken Sweden’s power to act by using methods associated with the grey area. These activities have intensified over the past few years.

Affecting all sectors of society

“The attacks are aimed at all sectors of society and aim to destabilise our fundamental values, Sweden’s competitiveness, our integrity, our independent decision making, our security and our unity. Events that have occurred in Sweden’s vicinity have shown us that state actors are willing to commit serious crimes against individuals. The intelligence threat is also a security threat”, says Klas Friberg, Head of the Swedish Security Service.

Due to the actions by foreign powers, Sweden is regularly, on a daily basis, subjected to attacks. It is therefore necessary to improve the protective security of critical assets, to reduce their vulnerabilities and to increase their protection.

Here and now

“The activities within the grey area are happening here and now, and are carried out by states with access to money, resources and time. This means that all of the government agencies and companies in Sweden that are engaged in security-sensitive activities are subjected to, or are at risk of being subjected to, grey area activities by foreign powers”, says Kennet Alexandersson.

“These developments make it vital to increase the capability of the Swedish Security Service and other public agencies responsible for countering attacks that are not primarily military in nature. We need to increase public awareness of the intelligence threat and to reduce existing vulnerabilities”, says Klas Friberg.

Seminars in Almedalen

The Swedish Security Service hosted two seminars in Almedalen on the intelligence threat and the problems posed by the grey area on 1 July.