In the media

The civil defence budget must keep up with the upgrading of the armed forces

Micaela Bodelius

By Micaela Bodelius


11 October 2023

It is unreasonable for the government to allocate such a modest budget to civil defence for 2023-2026, writes Micaela Bodelius, expert in total defence and former investigation secretary at the Defence Commission and the Coronavirus Commission.

The Russian military invasion of Ukraine has shown all too well the devastation that an armed attack can have on a country and its people. The protracted ratification process of Sweden's NATO membership means that Sweden remains outside the military alliance in the most unstable time in European history since World War II. This situation is not in line with the latest budget bill for civil defence, which, at SEK 5.5 billion for the year 2023, only covers just under a quarter of the country's estimated needs according to MSB (Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency).

The war in Ukraine gives us daily insights into the goal of large-scale Russian attacks to destroy critical infrastructure in the form of oil depots, railway infrastructure, dams and electrical substations.

Add to that worrying developments in other parts of Europe where pro-Russian governments rule in several Central European countries and the recurring conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh that shows continued strong tensions in the former Soviet states. War is now high on the agenda in our part of the world in a way that would have been hard to imagine two years ago.

The investment appears modest

We have just begun to build up Sweden's total defence. Extensive and time-consuming work is now needed to strengthen Sweden's resilience to dealing with attacks against both civilian and military targets. In the latest Budget Bill, the Government has announced investments equivalent to approximately SEK 400 million in 2023-2024 for civil defence in a number of areas such as increased grants to municipalities and regions, renovation and modernisation of civil defence shelters, activation of civilian service in municipal rescue services, strengthened cyber capabilities and increased funding for the Swedish Agency for Psychological Defence. This appears to be money well spent and includes extra appropriations for the agencies in the areas of emergency preparedness and civil defence.

But given MSB's budget proposal for civil defence to the government just under a year ago, was for annual investments of SEK 27 billion from 2026, the current forecast for 2026 of SEK 7 billion appears to be very modest. Add to this the fact that it is only an increase of SEK 1.5 billion from today, despite the current world situation and Sweden's vulnerable position. That makes it look like a rather token gesture.

In the event of a heightened state of alert and war, the primary task of civil defence is to support military defence. With relatively small armed forces, effective civil defence is a prerequisite for Sweden to be able to withstand an armed attack where the focus is on protecting the civilian population and maintaining a number of socially important functions.

With future NATO membership, additional demands will be placed on the member states' mutual defence obligations. In the event of an armed attack, Sweden must be able to be governed by a government, socially important functions must be maintained and the whole of society must offer support and contribute to military operations, regardless of whether these are Swedish or initiated by NATO.

If the latter is the case, our emergency preparedness authorities as well as regional and local actors will have a major role. This means, for example, that the Police and the Swedish Transport Administration must be able to secure passage for NATO transport on the Swedish road network. The health service must be able to cooperate with foreign military medical personnel to care for the injured. Foreign troops must also have access to clean drinking water.

Resources for civil defence must keep up

Resources for civil defence must keep pace with the rapid build-up of military defence. A civil defence with major vulnerabilities is not a good basis for a resilient total defence. With Sweden's entry into NATO, there is also a risk that its collective defence will be weakened. It is not reasonable for the government to allocate such a modest budget to civil defence for 2023-2026. For the sake of all our security, let us hope that the focus and design of the upcoming budget bill in the autumn of 2024 will include significantly more resources for civil defence.

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