Swedish defense officials have issued a stark warning to the nation, urging citizens to prepare for the possibility of war as Sweden moves closer to NATO membership. This announcement has triggered a wave of panic, leading to a rush on supplies.
Swedish Civil Defense Minister Carl-Oskar Bohlin, speaking at the Folk och Försvars (Society and Defense) annual national conference in Sälen, emphasized the gravity of the situation.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mj–6SdHkqc
“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,” Bohlin said. “But taking comfort in this conclusion has become more dangerous than it has been for a very long time. 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.”
General Micael Byden, the commander in chief of the Swedish armed forces, echoed this sentiment. Byden, who visited the eastern front of Ukraine in December, addressed the conference, stressing the need for mental preparedness among Swedes.
“We must understand how serious this situation really is and that people, down to the individual level, are preparing themselves mentally,” Byden said. He later clarified to Aftonbladet newspaper, “my ambition is to get more people to think about their own situation and their own responsibilities.”
Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson also issued a warning, stating, “An armed attack against Sweden cannot be ruled out.” These statements come as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken indicated that Turkey’s parliament is set to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership soon, with only Hungary’s approval pending.
The impact of these warnings has been profound. The Swedish children’s rights organization Bris reported a surge in calls from young people concerned about the possibility of war, spurred by social media posts. Maja Dahl, a spokeswoman for Bris, criticized the lack of child-friendly information accompanying these adult-oriented announcements.
“They should have provided information meant for kids when they come out with this kind of information for grown-ups,” Dahl said.
Former Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson sought to temper fears, stating on Swedish TV that while the security situation is serious, “it is not as if war is just outside the door.” However, social media posts have amplified concerns, with accounts like @amuse on X highlighting the public’s panic buying of emergency supplies.
The Swedish Civil Defense Ministry has responded to the heightened state of alert.
“The government is now equipping Sweden for previously unthinkable scenarios such as heightened preparedness and extreme war,” the ministry stated. This includes strengthening various areas of preparedness and conducting a supply analysis for healthcare products essential for good care.
Bohlin’s speech at the conference also highlighted the importance of societal resilience and the role of individuals in defense preparedness. He drew parallels with Ukraine’s situation since 2014, emphasizing the need for readiness in the face of global security risks.
“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,” Bohlin said.
At the same conference, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Sweden to collaborate in bolstering weapons manufacturing. Sweden, which has remained neutral since the Second World War and last experienced armed conflict in 1814, is now facing a dramatically altered security landscape. Russian lawmaker Aleksey Pushkov mocked the Swedish warnings as “anti-Russian paranoia,” suggesting that some Swedish military personnel and journalists are almost dreaming of war.
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