WASHINGTON — Sweden is planning to boost military spending by 11 percent over five years as tensions rise with Russia, and it sees the U.S. as a key partner, a top Swedish defense official said Wednesday.
Speaking at a U.S.–Sweden defense industry seminar the same day U.S. President Donald Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Swedish State Secretary for the Ministry of Defense Jan Salestrand raised the alarm on increased Russian activities in the Black Sea, Baltic Sea and in the High North.
"Transatlantic cooperation is crucial for both European and U.S. security," Salestrand said. "Europe and the U.S. must stand together in defending the agreed principles and laws of the European security order, including the respect for democracy, human rights and rule of law."
Russia, Salestrand said, is engaging in hybrid warfare and has "increased their military exercises and intelligence activities." Russia is "more provocative, unpredictable and destabilizing" he said, calling aggression toward its neighbors "the greatest challenge to the European security order since it was established 25 years ago."
Among other political and diplomatic steps to boost Sweden's security in recent years, its left-leaning government introduced a military draft for both men and women in March. Sweden formalized defense cooperation with the U.S. last year, and in 2015 it passed a large defense modernization bill.
Planned defense funding increases are intended to strengthen resilience against cyber attacks and provide air defense to the recently announced mechanized battle group on the island of Gotland, among other investments.
"As a representative of the Swedish government, my message here today is that Sweden will continue to assume its responsibility by contributing to security in the region and around the world," Salestrand said.
Two documents to guide military investment from 2021 to 2025 are due, one from the Swedish Defense Commission on May 19 and the second later this year.
Meanwhile, Sweden's increased defense spending focuses largely around two mechanized brigades, and that land force plans to upgrade tanks and infantry combat vehicles and acquire new mortars. Sweden also plans to procure more communication equipment, trucks and other basic material for its soldiers.
The Navy plans to acquire two next-generation submarines and make additional investments in anti-submarine warfare.
Sweden's Air Force plans to continue investment in Saab's Gripen E, set for a 2019 delivery and 2023 initial operational capability. It will be armed with the Meteor air-to-air missile, which Sweden developed with the U.K. And there are further plans for short- and medium-range surface-to-air missiles.
In September, Sweden plans to host its largest national military exercise in 20 years, Aurora 17, with an expected 20,000 participants.
Beyond the T-X trainer aircraft program, Salestrand said that more than ever, small- and medium-size Swedish companies have established themselves in the U.S. defense market.
Addressing the Trump administration's "buy America" push, Salestrand noted the Gripen fighter program has an estimated 40 percent U.S. content and that Sweden's defense agreement with the U.S. provides for free and fair trade.
"The U.S. is a major trading partner to Sweden, and this trade creates jobs," Salestrand said. "Our own analysis indicates that approximately 330,000 jobs have been created in the United States by exports from the U.S. to Sweden."
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the country that formalized a defense cooperation agreement with the U.S. and passed a defense modernization bill in 2015. It was Sweden.
Joe Gould is the Congress reporter for Defense News.