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Inspired by the question We will never surrender! Why would a country have this policy?

From the question text, Sweden recently issued a pamphlet to citizens regarding what would be done if war or a crisis happens.

To me this pamphlet seems unnecessary, seeing as Sweden is generally a very safe country. My question is, why did the Swedish government issue this pamphlet?

  • @Bobson Why have a policy without announcing it? Why have a policy that depends on your population ignoring appointed and elected officials but isn't publicized? This question seems poorly thought out; the reason becomes immediately apparent once you understand the intent of the policy. – jpmc26 Oct 26 '18 at 0:09
  • @jpmc26 The document discussed here contains a lot more information than just the part that the linked question talks about (a version in English is linked from that question if you want to have a look yourself). The document is mainly about individual preparedness so I feel this is a distinct question. – Diasiare Oct 26 '18 at 14:07
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As is noted in a comment on that question, the pamphlet is an updated version of "If the war comes", a similar pamphlet that was released from 1943 to 1991. With the end of the cold war it was for the time deemed outdated. So the real question here is why they decided to update and release it again.

MSB (The department of societal protection and preparation) has a statement about this (in Swedish):

Vi lever i en tid där följderna av extremt väder, IT-attacker, terrordåd kan påverka att samhällsservicen inte längre fungerar. Regeringen, som gett MSB uppdraget, menar att informationen också är viktig sett till att den säkerhetspolitiska situationen i omvärlden har försämrats.

Translation by me

We live in a time where the consequences of extreme weather, IT-attacks, and terror can contribute to public services shutting down. The administration, which has given MSB the mission [to release this pamphlet], also deems the information important as the security situation[1] in nearby countries has deteriorated.

So basically the current administration thinks that global warming and external threats, see Russian sabre rattling, has created a situation where the population of Sweden needs to, once again, be prepared to fend for themselves in the short term.

It should perhaps be noted that the old pamphlet only talked about what to do in case of a war while this one also informs about more modern threats like hacks, natural disasters, and disinformation campaigns.

1: The word being translated here is "säkerhetspolitiska" which translates quite poorly. In this case it means that they think that the region (Europe) has become less stable in the same sense that the middle east can be considered unstable. It's not about changes in any single nation but rather in their relationships.

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    Regarding the translation: perhaps "task" instead of "mission". Also I think it should be "has worsened" ("har" = "has")*, instead of "worsening" (it has already happened) - the sentence has to be changed accordingly. And perhaps "has deteriorated" instead of "has worsened": e.g. "... deems the information important as the security situation in nearby countries has deteriorated.". I am not a native Swedish speaker, though. – Peter Mortensen Oct 25 '18 at 20:57
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    @Diasiare How about "assignment" for "uppdrag"? – brendan Oct 26 '18 at 7:56
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    I find it amusing to see fake news in the same generic threat level as natural disasters – rath Oct 26 '18 at 9:24
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    @rath The pamphlet has 18 pages and one is dedicated to disinformation which doesn't seem unreasonable given recent events. – Diasiare Oct 26 '18 at 10:11
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    @rath I changed it to disinformation campaigns, while I feel like Fake news also applies it is indeed a more contentious term. – Diasiare Oct 26 '18 at 14:03
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@Diasiare's answer is good, but I would like to complete it with some cultural background.

Sweden has been at peace for more than 200 years. There is little memory left of what a crisis situation looks like and how individuals should handle it.
Many Swedes do they groceries day by day, or week by week and don't stockpile much more food than needed for the days to come. Many don't have more than a few bucks in cash in their wallets.

On the contrary, my French grandparents - who where teens during WWII - used to stockpile carbs, sugar, oil, gas to be self-sufficient for a while in case anything would happen.

Society as a whole seems to keep some memory of a crisis decades after it happened. But it was so long ago in Sweden that it makes sense to prepare individuals for any crisis. War is likely the most extreme crisis you can think of but there's a whole spectrum of crisis we could be prepared for.

As I mentioned earlier, the absence of cash in Swedes wallets could make a durable outage/hack in banks systems hard to handle. Mitigation is easy: Just have enough cash so you can buy groceries for a few days.

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    Do you have any examples of carbonated food? ...cuz that sounds awesome. – thepip3r Oct 26 '18 at 15:51
  • Beer is food, right? – M.Mat Oct 26 '18 at 21:12
  • @thepip3r Well, there's carbonated ice cream... – Numeri Oct 27 '18 at 6:41
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    I'm tempted to suggest "canned food" as a replacement for "carbonated food" but I like the original idea more. – Criggie Oct 28 '18 at 10:03
  • Haha @thepip3r I meant carbs. Pasta, rice, potatoes. – Thibault D. Oct 29 '18 at 9:14
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The pamphlet in question is available in English.

Simple official reason

The official reason for publishing this pamphlet right now is this short sentence from one of the websites of the official agency responsible for it's publication:

Regeringen ser att satsningen är nödvändig för att alla som bor i Sverige ska bli bättre förberedda på att hantera allvarliga händelser både i fredstid och i värsta fall krig.

Loosely and lousily translated it says that the government thinks this campaign is necessary in order to better prepare Swedish residents to handle serious events in peacetime and in worst case, war.

Longer official reason

But the actual reasoning behind it is better explained in a longer article in Svenska Dagbladet written by the minister of defense Peter Hultqvist and the minister of internal affairs Morgan Johansson, published 2018-05-29. I will try to summarize their points:

  • During the cold war, Sweden were reasonably well prepared. After the cold war ended, the majority of the defense has been dismantled.
  • Increased tension in the world lead to a decision in June 2015 that Sweden's capacity to withstand an attack must be increased again. A lot of investments are decided.
  • The agency responsible for something I would call "civilian preparedness" (MSB) did a survey and found that a majority of the population thinks it's an important issue but very few were actually prepared or knew how to prepare.

Some important quotes from the article:

Regeringen har i den nationella säkerhetsstrategin, som beslutades i januari 2017, pekat ut åtta olika hot mot vår säkerhet: militära hot, informations- och cybersäkerhet, terrorism och våldsbejakande extremism, organiserad brottslighet, hot mot energiförsörjning, hot mot transporter och infrastruktur, hälsohot samt klimatförändringarna och dess effekter.

I undersökningar som MSB gjort uppger en majoritet av de svarande att de har ett stort eller mycket stort ansvar för att vara förberedda på en större samhällskris. Närmare 80 procent tycker att frågor om säkerhet och beredskap är viktiga eller mycket viktiga. Samtidigt uppger ungefär 40 procent att de inte vet hur man kan förbereda sig och endast 11 procent uppgav sig ha gjort de förberedelser de tänkt och tror sig behöva.

1943 tog Statens informationsstyrelse på regeringens uppdrag fram broschyren "Om kriget kommer", som distribuerades till alla svenska hushåll och innehöll anvisningar och råd hur människor i Sverige skulle bete sig om landet hamnade i krig. Denna broschyr kom sedan ut i ett antal versioner fram till slutet av 1980-talet.

Sedan det kalla kriget upphörde har de försvarspolitiska inriktningsbesluten utgått från en stark tro på långsiktig fred och stabilitet i vår del av världen. Detta har inneburit en nedrustning av det militära försvaret, men även en nedmontering av de civila delarna av totalförsvaret.

På grund av det förändrade säkerhetsläget har regeringen nu brutit denna utveckling.

I juni 2015 beslutade riksdagen om en ny försvarspolitisk inriktning, Försvarsmaktens förmåga att möta ett väpnat angrepp ska öka och förmågan i det samlade totalförsvaret ska säkerställas.

My editorial summary

The timing was right to reinstate this information which used to be distributed for a long time. It is a small but important part of the larger plan to get Sweden back to at least a fraction of the preparedness it used to have.

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    +1. This is a good answer. Please include an least one excerpt (in English would be better) from the longer article in case the URL no longer works. – Alexei Oct 26 '18 at 8:28
  • I have also removed some part that does not really belong in the answer. Please feel free to revert, but I think including a small part of the cited article would be better. – Alexei Oct 26 '18 at 8:29
  • @Alexei Thank you, I have included the quotes which I based my answer on, and your edit was sound. – pipe Oct 26 '18 at 8:36
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There is probably no way to prove this, but the campaign could be seen as an attempt to make increases of the defense budget more widely accepted in the population.

Increases in the defense budget are in fact discussed on proposed just recently, see, e.g., recent news.

According to (the propably oudated) information on Wikipedia, Sweden is the 9th largest arms exporter in the world and a significant part of the economy is weapon-related, but given the recent decline one might conjecture that the industry is in trouble. That is, they may be looking into boosting their sales by increasing their home country's own military budget.

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    Increasing the defense budget was already accepted in the population, and among most political parties, so I doubt that this has anything to do with it. There's really no one who wants the politicians to spend less on our already crippled defenses, at least no one that bothers to talk about it. – pipe Oct 26 '18 at 7:34
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Not quite a comment, but not quite an answer, I just wanted to point out that being prepared for rare contingencies is a form of insurance. Compare this with a disaster recovery plan in IT.

The purpose is risk mitigation, in the national interest. This may have soft implications towards deterrence, or perhaps more cynically (as another answer points out), towards corporate interests. More optimistically this should (hopefully) lower "costs" associated with a negative event. "Costs" might refer to national cohesion against a state-sponsored disinformation campaign, or loss of life from a natural disaster.

  • This is quite an answer. Being prepared even for unlikely cases is a realistic possible motivation. – Trilarion Oct 26 '18 at 13:48

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