From Pacifism to Armament: Unravelling the Paradox of Swedish Arms Trade

‘It is a human right to feel safe’ (Saab, 2020). This is how Sweden’s primary arms manufacturer, Saab AB (hereafter referred to as Saab), has recently articulated its vision and mission. Most security branding studies have primarily concentrated on examining the methods employed by state and non-state entities to cultivate secure and safe perceptions of a location. However, there has been less investigation into how the established brand reputation of inherently safe, secure, and tranquil places is leveraged to promote security-related goods or services. This gap in research is particularly noticeable in the context of the Nordic region. Apart from Iceland, most Nordic nations boast significant security sectors. While initially focused on serving their domestic markets, these industries have gradually expanded their operations over the last three decades. Consequently, certain Nordic nations have emerged as significant suppliers of security technologies and weapon systems internationally. Simultaneously, these countries are widely perceived and labelled as the ‘do-gooders’ in global affairs (de Bengy Puyvallée & Bjørkdahl, 2021). This perception is supported by many characterisations of the Nordics as ‘agents of a world common good’ (Bergman, 2007) and ‘moral superpowers’ (Dahl, 2006). In this article, the focus is directed towards Sweden. Sweden presents an intriguing case study due to several notable factors: until its recent accession to NATO, it had boasted a lengthy tradition of military non-alignment and had been generally perceived as a ‘neutral’ nation. Additionally, Sweden has not engaged in armed conflict with another state since 1814, which is one of the lengthiest periods of uninterrupted peace among all nations worldwide (Bjereld & Möller, 2016). However, since the mid-1990s, Sweden has maintained a substantial arms industry in support of its ‘total defence’ model. Remarkably, despite its size, the country has produced weapon systems for all military branches – air, land, and sea – mainly due to substantial investments in military research and development (Stenlås, 2008). With the reprioritisation of Sweden’s security policy and reductions in defence budgets during the 1990s and 2000s, major arms manufacturers like Saab were compelled to internationalise and focus on exports. This shift positioned the Swedish industry as a significant participant in today’s global arms trade alongside some of the most influential states worldwide (Burja, 2022). While academics have extensively examined Sweden’s foreign and security policies, its defence industry has been neglected within branding literature. Therefore, this article seeks to fill this gap by bringing attention to current research on Nordic branding – specifically its practices and impacts – and shedding light on its link with security. The focus then shifts to analysing how actors within the defence industry, both public and private, utilise symbolic representations to shape a specific interpretation of ‘progressive’ national branding tropes for commercial objectives.

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Ukrainian Neptune Cruise Missiles and Sea Drones – How a Country without a Real Naval Fleet is Changing the Balance of Power in the Black Sea and the Future of Naval WarfareFrom Theory to Practice: Understanding Nuclear Deterrence and Sharing Agreements in European Security

When Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his open war of aggression against Ukraine in February 2022, most observers expected the Ukrainians to hold out for a few days in the face of a superior armed force. After two years of war, the situation on the ground remains ambiguous for Ukraine. However, in the Black Sea, Ukraine has been able to notch several successful naval strikes. The Russian Navy having lost several critical vessels, has had to withdraw from the Black Sea Fleet's headquarters in Sevastopol in Crimea and relocate several ships to Russian harbours. Additionally, it is increasingly failing in its efforts to enforce a grain embargo against Ukraine by sea. Newly developed naval drones and anti-ship missiles are likely key factors contributing to Ukraine’s successes. This Infoflash aims to analyse these new weapons systems and their impact on the Russo-Ukrainian War, the balance of power in the Black Sea and their implications for the future of maritime warfare.

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From Theory to Practice: Understanding Nuclear Deterrence and Sharing Agreements in European Security

The European Union faces the imperative of increased defence autonomy. As geopolitical dynamics evolve and traditional alliances undergo scrutiny, the EU must assert its strategic independence by bolstering its defence capabilities.  Over the years, statements by European leaders, including but not limited to President Emmanuel Macron (President of the French Republic, 2022), Chancellor Angela Merkel (Chancellor of Germany, 2018), and President Ursula von der Leyen (President of the European Commission, 2023), often stress the need for the EU to reduce its reliance on external actors, particularly in defence and security matters.

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Post-Merkel Europe: A New Strategic Playbook for Brussels?

While the Bundestag’s elections are ending Merkel’s legacy, they symbolise a new era for Brussels. For 16 years, Angela Merkel’s doctrine has been defending the “European unity” and balancing the European and Atlantic security policies (Buras & Puglerin, 2021). In the wake of heated geopolitical tensions, the future Berlin’s government will be expected to take on more responsibility to defend European interests. Given the rising strategic powers of Moscow and Beijing, and the shrinking of Washington’s presence on European soil, Brussels’ shift from “the responsibility to protect” to “the responsibility to act” is needed more than ever (Puglerin, 2021). On that note, this Info Flash raises the question of whether post-Merkel’s Berlin will deepen the EU’s security role, given Germany’s culture of restraint?

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Read more about the article Time for a European Heavy-Lift Helicopter?
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Time for a European Heavy-Lift Helicopter?

The cancellation of Germany’s Schwerer Transporthubschrauber/STH (Heavy-lift Helicopter) competition and its dismissal of the two US options, combined with a long-term lack of a European alternative, poses the question: is it time for a European Heavy-Lift Helicopter?

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