go to top
Saab JAS-39 Gripen fight jet at the Royal International Air Tattoo, Gloucestershire, U.K., July 21, 2013 (photo by FLickr user jez_b licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license).

Sweden Struggles to Balance Defense Sales, Rights Concerns

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

In March, Sweden abruptly decided not to renew a five-year defense industry cooperation deal with Saudi Arabia, amid a diplomatic spat after Sweden’s foreign minister criticized Riyadh over its human rights record. The controversy led to headlines around the world and exposed the tension for Sweden, the world’s 12th-largest arms exporter, between promoting global defense sales and advancing democracy and human rights. But this is far from a new issue for Stockholm, and given the worsening security climate in Europe, the Saudi episode is unlikely to change minds in Sweden about the need to export defense equipment, even to non-democracies.

Even though Sweden is a relatively small country, it built and sustained a sizeable defense industry during the 20th century, primarily driven by the needs of a formally neutral country to reliably supply its armed forces with high-quality equipment and platforms. During the Cold War, Sweden fielded almost the full range of advanced materiel needed by the Swedish armed forces, from several generations of fighter jets and a large number of submarine classes, to anti-tank weapons, infantry fighting vehicles and even main battle tanks. To be sure, Sweden was never entirely independent of outside suppliers, and the linkages established between Swedish industry and foreign suppliers were also used to quietly deepen Stockholm’s relationship with foreign powers. For example, nearly half of the key components and sub-systems of the JAS-39 Gripen fighter jet are sourced from U.S. suppliers, but integrated and assembled by Saab in Sweden. ...

To read more,

enter your email address then choose one of the three options below.

Subscribe to World Politics Review and you'll receive instant access to 10,000+ articles in the World Politics Review Library, along with new comprehensive analysis every weekday . . . written by leading topic experts.