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Tal av Carl-Oskar Bohlin i Washington den 9 maj


Tal av minister för civilt försvar Carl-Oskar Bohlin vid ett seminarium den 9 maj 2024 arrangerat av Sveriges ambassad i Washington, D.C. i anslutning till ett möte som USA arrangerade för Natos krets av seniora nationella tjänstemän för resiliens.

Det talade ordet gäller. Se talet på engelska nedan.

It’s an honour coming to the United States as the first Swedish Minister for Civil Defence in almost 80 years, but an even greater honour setting foot on US soil for the first time as an Ally.  

Let me start this speech by going back some 800 days. The initial phase of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine is characterised by two failures. The first is the collective West’s failure to deter Russia from escalating the war in Ukraine, which begun in 2014, into a full-scale invasion. The second is the enormous misjudgment from Putin’s side that he could swiftly and decisively accomplish his 20-year-long ambition to subjugate Ukraine and erase Ukraine as an independent state. 

The first failure underscores the importance of the West standing united in a position of strength in a way we didn’t fully do between 2014 and 2022 but have managed to do since the full-scale invasion was launched. Leo Tolstoy once said that the two most powerful warriors are patience and time. Where this will end depends on our joint resolve, and it is our obligation to show Putin that his current bet also will fail. 

The latter failure, namely Russia’s initial failure, teaches us something about the strength of a resilient society with the will to defend itself. Russia’s assumption that the full-scale invasion would be swift and easy was debunked by Ukraine’s willingness and ability to fight against an existential threat. This ability has been defined in no small part by Ukraine meeting total war with total resilience. With a society built on resilience, including through its civil defence, Russia’s attempts to break the backbone of Ukrainian society have been thwarted. 

The rest of Europe has reason to learn from the journey Ukraine made between 2014 and 2022. This was also one of Zelenskyy’s strong messages at this year’s Munich Security Conference. You must get ready, even if it’s more comfortable to think about something else. His stark message was that Ukraine was not ready in 2014 but was forced to become so by 2022. And when we talk about getting ready, it’s not just about military capabilities, but about the fact that society as a whole must contribute to a credible and deterrent defence posture. 

This is precisely what Sweden is now engaged in through the rebuilding of our total defence concept. After the Cold War ended, the whole world enjoyed the peace dividend, assuming that history had ended – Sweden perhaps more so than others. Together with many other countries in Europe, Sweden initially didn’t see the signs pointing to what Russia was evolving into clearly enough. Under the current Swedish Government, Sweden has a Minister for civil Defence, based in the Ministry of Defence – the first time since the end of World War II. 

And let’s start by getting the semantics right. Civil defence in the Swedish total defence concept is not just about protecting the civilian population, it’s also about building a more resilient society in all sectors critical to societal resilience – a society that can quickly adapt to actively contribute to defence efforts, while also securing functionality and thus the population’s continued will to resist. This also tells us that civil defence is the most cross-sectoral activity a government can engage in. 

This work takes many forms, and protecting the civilian population across the threat spectrum is of course a key part. In Sweden, we are now bolstering the resources of our emergency services and improving the ability to handle, among other things, CBRN threats, while also reintroducing civilian conscription to ensure personnel supply to the emergency services, but also other sectors, in the event of an armed attack. 

Security of supply is another very broad area where Sweden is now advancing its positions. I sometimes say that the ‘just-in-time society’ was the pandemic’s first victim. For Sweden, it illuminated how vulnerable our society had become, with the dismantling of our Cold War system of supply chain security. However, the world’s supply chains could face even greater challenges than those that arose during the pandemic if the geopolitical world situation continues to deteriorate. 

Before you get tired of me, let me also briefly mention what the Swedish Government considers the emerging domain of modern civil defence, namely the cyber domain. Here, the threat is directed directly at the civilian parts of society by antagonistic actors. Our focus is currently strongly focused on reshaping and strengthening national cybersecurity efforts, finding the connection between cybersecurity and cyber defence, building a new national cybersecurity centre and deepening possible cooperation with our close partners. 

It is a great honour to visit you as the first Minister for Civil Defence in almost 80 years, but it is an even greater honour to do so as an Ally. Sweden has returned to a value-based alliance where we truly have belonged for a long time. Our appreciation of transatlantic cooperation and support from the US in the NATO accession process cannot be overstated. 

Sweden will lead by example to ensure that Europe takes on a greater share of the security burden that we must now jointly bear, but we will also be a strong and clear voice for the indispensable role of the United States in NATO and for a strong transatlantic partnership.