"Sweden Must Take Responsibility for Its Own Security"

Major Johan Hellström
During the full-scale preparedness exercise Øvelse Nord in Northern Norway, Major Johan Hellström held a 20-minute lecture on Nordic security and preparedness seen with Swedish eyes. (Photo: Marie Staberg)

Bodø (High North News): Major Johan Hellström is clear that Sweden must build up its total defense and prepare for a NATO without the US.

Norsk versjon

"We cannot sit and wait for anyone to solve our security issues. We must deal with it ourselves by building our total defense, military defense, and preparedness."

The statement comes from Major Johan Hellström, Chief of the Västerbotten Regiment, to High North News.

Hellström is clear that Sweden's membership in NATO is positive. Still, the major emphasizes that Sweden and Europe cannot put the nation's security in NATO's hands alone.

What is the Västerbotten Regiment?

The Västerbotten Regiment's task is to train, develop, and maintain the Västerbotten Battalion, Sweden's largest Home Guard battalion. The Home Guard is placed under the Swedish Armed Forces under the Ministry of Defense.

In addition, the Västerbotten Regiment supports voluntary activities in the area.

The Västerbotten Regiment belongs to the northern military region.

"Must take care of our own security"

"We must take care of our security ourselves," says the major and continues:

"Europe's security has been built on the alliance with the US. If the US now says it will leave NATO, then we will stand alone. I think Europe and we in Sweden must take responsibility for our own security by ensuring that our war alliances become as dangerous and capable as possible so that an attacker refrains and so that we will have a resilient society."

Even if the US does not leave NATO, American forces will still take a long time to arrive.

Important message

Hellström emphasizes the North Atlantic Treaty's Article 3, which says all member countries must have a credible national defense.

Article 3

"In order more effectively to achieve the objectives of this Treaty, the Parties, separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack."

Source: The North Atlantic Treaty, NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

"It will take a long time before help arrives. We must manage by ourselves until then. That is an important message when it comes to how we work. Article 3 says we must manage by ourselves so that we can accept help and cooperate later."

If the North Atlantic Treaty Article 5 is triggered, a collective defense will support the party or parties that are attacked. However, there is some doubt regarding when and how quickly this will happen.

Serious consequences

Editor and Commentator Arne O. Holm in High North News is among those who believe that we cannot take for granted that NATO will come to Norways's aid in a crisis situation.

"It is problematic. The guarantees are there, but the issue is whether NATO will take the change when the consequence is a third world war."

Holm made the statement in a recent debate in Anchorage, Alaska, under the auspices of Alaska World Affairs Council and the High North Center.

Article 5

"The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security."

Source: The North Atlantic Treaty, NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Obligated to help

Previously, Sweden's defense management has asked the inhabitants to prepare for war.

The Danish MoD, Troels Lund Poulsen (Left, Denmark's Liberal Party), has also made it clear that the situation with Russia is serious and that investments in Danish defense must be accelerated. That was revealed in an interview with the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

In the interview, Poulsen warned that NATO risks being attacked by Russia.

"How should Sweden deal with that?"

"Sweden is allied with NATO. We are bound to help, like everyone else."

May move quickly

Hellström believes Article 5 could potentially be triggered faster than many think.

"I believe that could happen much quicker than we think. Many think that we have plenty of time because there is a war in Ukraine, but that is not certain. It could move much quicker. I think we must work hard here and now to strengthen the civilian, military, and total defense."


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We must be as compentent as possible. We will be as dangerous as possible, here and now, with what we have.

Little has changed in the cooperation between Norway and Sweden after the latter became a member of NATO, according to Hellström.

"There have been no practical dramatic challenges at my level. However, it is now possible to cooperate more concretely in defense planning at strategic and operative levels than before."

Time will show what that will entail, says Hellström, and points out the storing of equipment and exercises across country borders as potential changes.

Major Johan Hellström
Major Johan Hellström during a seminar at Nord University under the auspices of the preparedness exercise Øvelse Nord. (Photo: Marie Staberg)

Militarization of Northern Sweden

This week, American ships with military personnel were in Narvik in connection with the military exercise Immediate Response 2024. 

Personnel, vehicles, and containers with equipment were unloaded in Narvik. Some of the material was moved to Bjerkvik. Eventually, personnel and materials will be transported by train and road to Finland via Sweden. 

"How is the militarization of Northern Sweden felt?"

"It is noticeable because we practice more than before. We have also established new departments, such as Sollefteå and Falun."

According to Hellström, Sollefteå is of great strategic importance.

"Connection between roads from Norway to Sweden will be important if Sweden is to receive help from outside via Norway."

Lacks people

With the militarization of -– and a presence in – Northern Sweden comes a need for personnel.

"We have some challenges related to a lack of personnel. We lack officers and have a great need for them."

"We employ more civilians than before. There are certain positions that civilians can hold. In addition, we are increasing the number of places for the officer program at the officer colleges. We are trying to get more people in there."

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