The troubled international situation increases the threat to the security of Sweden
Published 22 February 2023
Russia poses a serious threat to the security of Sweden, and Russia's actions, along with those of other authoritarian states such as China and Iran, have become increasingly offensive. Recent developments with the increased spread of conspiracy theories and anti-government rhetoric have increased the scope of the threat associated with subversion as well as the attack threat.
The deteriorated international situation has had a direct effect on Sweden, as the external threat also affects Sweden’s domestic security. Current global developments are difficult to assess; each threat adds to the overall threat, and changes occur quickly. This has been described in the Swedish Security Service’s 2022–2023 situational assessment report.
"The actions of Russia and other authoritarian states have become increasingly offensive, and security-threatening activities are ongoing. In addition, because of current international developments, extremism is growing, the attack threat has increased, and the scope of the threat associated with subversive activities has widened. Seen as a whole, the situation has accelerated the threat to Sweden," says Charlotte von Essen, Head of the Swedish Security Service.
Russia, China, and Iran still pose the greatest threats to the security of Sweden. Russia currently poses the most significant threat. China poses a growing and long-term threat. Iran poses a tangible threat.
Certain foreign powers place extensive resources into unlawfully procuring advanced technology in Sweden. One of the consequences of the war of aggression on Ukraine is that this has increased Russia's need for technology in order to maintain its military capability. China and Iran as well are engaged in extensive procurement of technology and expertise.
The threat becomes more complex when authoritarian states increase their cooperation. Cooperation between authoritarian states such as Russia, China, and Iran is due in part to the imposed sanctions.
Developments internationally and in Sweden mean that the attack threat emanating from violent Islamist extremism an violent right-wing extremism remains, and the certain aspects of this threat have increased. Violent extremist are engaged in subversion through their infiltration and influence activities, and the long-term threat to democracy, which has increased in scope, is becoming more and more evident.
"The Swedish Security Service has noted that the spread of conspiracy theories and anti-government rhetoric is increasing. This could undermine trust in the institutions of society, politicians’ decisions, and the legitimacy of Sweden as a state. Because of this development, the agendas of certain foreign powers and those of violent extremists coincide more often," says Charlotte von Essen.
The deteriorated security situation highlights the importance of protecting Sweden's secrets, i.e. that which is most critical for our nation. There are currently shortcomings in all areas of the protective security of security-sensitive entities in Sweden. These shortcomings affect the ability of these entities to protect themselves, and this carries the risk of compromising Sweden's total defence capability.
"Sweden’s independence and democracy are values that may sound obvious and that many of us take for granted. However, the Swedish Security Service would like to emphasise the importance of realising that these values are being challenged every day and that we must work together to build up our resilience," says Charlotte von Essen.
22 February 2023