6 October, 2022

The defence attachés of Sweden and Finland, Colonel Per Appelkvist and Captain (Navy) Mika Raunu, participated at a forum for high-level discussion in London on 29 September. The attachés provided a historical approach by both countries towards Russia and the security challenges posed by a border with Russia and the Baltic Sea. The forum took place at The Army and Navy Club, The RAG, in London and was hosted by Security in Complex Environments Group, SCEG and sponsored by Vesper Group.

The Swedish and Finnish defence attachés at The Army and Navy Club

The Finnish perspective
The discussion was opened by Captain (Navy) Mika Raunu, defence attaché to the UK and the Republic of Ireland at the Embassy of Finland in London. He laid the ground for the perspective to join NATO by looking back 700 years when Sweden and Finland were one country and the many times of crises by the eastern border through the years. He compared the start of the war in Ukraine with the attack from Soviet forces on Finland in 1939:

– Unfortunately, it is not the first time. We are deeply touched by the similarities from the second world war when Soviet forces attacked Finland.

Raunu briefly described the history of Finnish security and defence and then highlighted four points of Finnish security:

  • The public will to defend Finland is solid, providing a strong national defence.
  • National defence supported by bilateral and multilateral cooperation, readiness to cooperate with NATO amongst others.
  • Importance of national resilience and comprehensive approach to security due to geographical locations.
  • International rules-based order.

Raunu described the national assessments and decisions that led to the decision to join NATO, a much publicly debated question in Finland through the years. He also talked about the current strengths in the Finnish security:

  • Capable national defence and the public will of defending.
  • Maintaining national comprehensive security model and resilience.
  • Development of bilateral and multilateral defence co-operation.
  • Being a security provider, not a consumer.
  • The impacts of NATO membership.

Finnish defence attaché Mika Raunu

The Swedish perspective
Per Appelkvist, Colonel and defence attaché to the UK and the Republic of Ireland at the Embassy of Sweden in London went on to give the Swedish perspective. He described the Swedish neutrality stance since 1814, latterly nonaligned and he touched on some of the complications involved. Appelkvist also talked about how strong the Swedish civil defence had been and gave a striking example; that the owner of Volvo station wagon car during the cold war had to be be prepared to surrender the car to the defence forces in case of war.

Appelkvist described the downsizing of the Swedish Armed Forces after the end of the cold war in the 90’s, and how expansion started again with some of the key questions:

  • How small can you get before it becomes critical?
  • What are the indicators to start growing again?

The Russian invasion of Georgia was not an indicator for growth, but the invasion of Crimea was – political decisions in 2015 launched the start of a financial rocket for the Swedish Armed Forces. Partnerships in all forms also became a key decision. The war on Ukraine prompted the Swedish decision to join NATO, but Appelkvist also said that Sweden most likely would not have joined without Finland, holding the 1340-kilometre-long border towards Russia.

Appelkvist stated that what NATO will get with Sweden is a modern, high tech armed force and a country with a strong defence industry.

Swedish defence attaché Per Appelkvist

Many other topics
The talks were followed by engaged questions from the audience, touching both expectations and preparations for the NATO membership, the energy crisis, the Nord Stream pipelines and the Arctic security dimension.

The next Vesper event will be held in Stockholm in November.