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Hello, it's Jacek Bartosia here at Strategy and Future. Welcome everybody. Today my guest is Mike Wienerschtig from FOE, which is the Swedish Defense Research Agency. My guest is the head of the Security Policy Department, exactly, and the full name is of the Swedish Defense Research Agency in Stockholm. And I need to underline that he speaks in his own capacity. Should I add anything, Mike? No, that's fine. Okay, thank you for accepting the invitation to my program. Let's get started with the following question. You know, we are having, of course, the major war on the European continent. You were teaching the international relations theory.
So what this war means for the international relations theory? Is it a system-transforming war? Are we in some sort of the interregnum, interludium period of the anarchy, where the new order will be established, after which the new order will be established, whether you concur with this opinion? Or do you have some other opinion in your mind? Well, I would say if we are painting with a very broad theoretical brush here, so to speak, I would say that we are now very quickly getting rid of the illusion that we have an order in an illegal sense in the world and in Europe in particular, because the Russian aggression against Ukraine means very explicitly, I would say, that the last illusions of the post-Cold War order are gone.
Instead, we are back to the traditional geopolitical power struggles that we've seen in European history for hundreds, if not thousands of years. This is the problem. And that is an order in its own right. It's an order based on the lack of order or anarchy, as we say theoretically. But the order is being normally then based on things like balances of power and the terms. Now the Russian Federation was not deterred enough. It instead took the opportunity to invade Ukraine. And that was, of course, upsetting the former order in a way, but that order again was pretty much an illusion.
We've had problems with Russia for at least the last 20 of the last 30 years. And this means that we are now back to the, let's say, bare bones of higher theory when the world is governed by geopolitical power struggles, successful or failed balances of power, and worse. And this is unfortunately a very old story, especially in European history, but for the world in general, I would say. We see that in many other parts of the world too. You can look at China, for example, in Asia, where we are obviously in a situation where an attack on Taiwan could be imminent in the next 10 years or so.
That would be, of course, also an order thrashing thing if they do it. But on the other hand, the good thing, maybe the only good thing about the Ukrainian war is it has shown all the problems even a great power can have if it starts invading a smaller neighbor, if that neighbor is militarily and also societally cohesive and efficient. The Ukrainian resistance has, of course, on the one hand, depended on Russian incompetence in many ways, but it has also been amazingly effective given the general prejudices that I think we all had about the Ukrainian armed forces before the war. At least that was the case in Sweden.
We were very surprised about how well the Ukrainian armed forces, with a lot of Western help, of course, have been able to withstand the Russian attacks. So my major answer to your question is that what we are seeing now is not a dramatic thing really. It just shows that at the very base of international relations, we have a very, let's say, nasty reality, which is that all forms of orders in terms of institutions and international laws and international agreements and so on are very easily erased if an aggressor is allowed to and not deterred enough to do what, for example, Russia is trying to do. Yeah, I fully agree.
But let me be more even granular in an attempt to depict this moment. You describe the harsh reality that we simply need in our minds move from the idealist theory to the realist theory of international relations. But I think what do you think about such a proposition that the key understanding of this particular situation is that maybe we should also move from the constructivist concept that, you know, Euro-Atlantic community, that the United States with its unipolar moment can be a court of appeal, and impose its will in the anarchic system, in the system of anarchy in the international relations.
But preponderance of the United States and the Western institutions and the Western economic and military power was so preponderant, but at least in its neighborhood, in the place where it matters, there was some sort of a constructivist order when still the brute power of anybody outside of the system could not overcome the constructivist model. And it also was shattered by deterrence failure. You said deterrence failure, right? What do you think about this proposition, which is probably made maybe even more transformative in terms of how the West sees itself? Well, I've always been against comparing constructivism and realism, because constructivism to me is an ontology rather than a theory of international relations.
I mean, what the constructivists always have argued is that human life, societal life in particular, including international life, international relations are socially constructed. And this to me is true, but trivial, because what else could they be? I mean, we're living in a society, societies have interactions, people have interactions. These are of course socially constructed, but that's not the important thing. That's always been the case. What matters is any form of ideas about how the world works. And to that point, constructivism has very little to say actually.
What I think you're suggesting is that constructivist ideas about orders and American preponderance in a more kind of theoretical way has been used as a way of defining order in the system. But American preponderance has been a fact as well in terms of international relations. You don't need to be a realist to note that. 15 years ago, at the peak of the Iraq war and its aftermath, the United States stood for about 50% of global military defense and defense expenditures. One single country of about 200 countries in the world was paying and also of course correspondingly amassing military power that was as big as the rest of the world combined. That's not the case anymore.
But on the other hand, the decrease of the American military share of the world military expenditures is limited after all. They still pay about 40% or so, 38 to 40% of the global military expenditures and have of course an according military power, which is incomparable to anything else. Especially China and Russia. If you take these countries combined, Russia has an engagement with camps of nuclear weapons, but nothing else really. And this is still a fact. You don't need to be a constructivist to argue that the Americans are preponderant in that regard. The question is whether this is tenable in the long run.
China here, of course, as many Americans have identified, is the only country with the population that might make a difference here because they're roughly four times more numerous than the Americans. And as soon as they have half the productivity of the Americans, the economy will be much bigger and that will allow them to finance and support much bigger military organization and also of course military power in general. So we have changes here. The Russians still, I mean, starting from a geopolitical standpoint, which I tend to do, geopolitical theory being a Swedish invention after all. We can go back to the end in 1999 to prove that. But Chilean was not that elaborate.
If you look at the real heavy guys in the business like Sir Alfred McKinder and Nicholas Bickman, they always argue that the European, the Eurasian landmass is the big thing in world politics. That's what the action is about. And the Eurasian landmass has a lot of empty space, which is Siberia and the Stans. I mean, very few people live there actually. And people live where the problems are and people cause problems where you have the biggest concentrations of people. So the Rimland theory of a stickman is much better in my regard. And that covers both Eastern Asia and Western Europe.
And if you're a global superpower like the United States and you want to ensure that no other power will solely dominate this Eurasian landmass, you need to be engaged in both corners or both ends. This is exactly what the Americans are doing now. And this is what they will continue to do even if we have a Trump administration or any American administration really. Because if they give up Western Europe and let someone else, like Russia, for example, or just leaving a mess behind in terms of the wars we saw in the 19th and 18th and 17th centuries, they will lose after all.
I mean, the United States is an island, geopolitically speaking, even if it's a very big island, it's still an island with a very limited population compared to the Eurasian landmass. And they won't like that. So even if China is the pacing threat, as the Americans currently say, no constructivist need to devise or invent any other stories or narratives. I mean, true geopolitical balance of power politics will ensure that the Americans still are engaged in Europe. The question is where they will be engaged. If they allow the new. . .
How deep is the remnant, so to speak, the proper balance of power? That's a floating thing, where if you look at the maps that Spiegelman devised, for example, in the 1940s, I believe, Western Europe, I mean, not perhaps even including Poland, but still Western Europe. Now Poland is, of course, in Western Europe or Central Europe, depending on how you define it. But still, that part of the world, but not necessarily Ukraine, are important things. Ukraine is, of course, much more important imperialistically speaking for Russia than for the United States. So you could see a line being drawn east of Estonia and also west of Ukraine.
And that is going to be the new Iron Curtain, if you wish. I mean, now I'm just speculating, of course, but that could be the case. The champions in the American political spectrum would probably see it that way. On the other hand, many of them were also against the NATO enlargement to the Baltic States, for example. They argued that the Baltic States are indefensible because they are so small and there's no strategic depth and so on.
I always counter that by saying that, well, you know, in the Cold War, during the Cold War, the West defended successfully West Berlin, which was surrounded not only by 900,000 East German soldiers, but also another 900,000 Soviet soldiers who were in the GDR, the German Democratic Republic, so forth. So, I mean, of course, you can defend Estonia by extended deterrence, as you can with whatever country, if you're serious enough. And the United States was very serious in terms of that during the Cold War. What we don't know right now is whether the Americans will define, for example, the Ukraine as belonging to the Western Rimlands, the Eurasian continent.
They can do otherwise, and then you will have a direct border with a united Belarus, Russia, federation or union. That will be problematic because then you will have the new Cold War iron curtain, so to speak, just at your eastern border. Both you and us, Mike, so to speak. Sure, sure. But it is very interesting what you just said, you know, being Polish. I'm, of course, a passionate reader of both Spikeman and MacKinder, especially MacKinder, given the, you know, his concept of intermarium. He called it otherwise, but this is all about the intermarium.
And that goes directly against sort of this, your speculation that the Americans might not think that Ukraine is a Rimland country and it might not be embraced by the, you know, being part of the Western camp, which goes against the main tenet of the Polish grand strategy of blast 500 years that Russia must be out of the European system. And basically Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Baltic States are a buffer zone or a sort of a Commonwealth or whatever we call it, containment alliance that keeps Russia out of the European power system.
And that's why we have behaved towards the Ukrainians during this war, like we have, because we think that, you know, maybe not that we are a unit, you know, a unity, but in geopolitical terms, we badly need Ukraine. And if the Russians didn't have nuclear weapons, I think we would have gone to really much further commitments to sustain Ukraine and keep it in the fight, if you know what I mean. So. Sure. And I agree. I mean, also from a Swedish perspective, having Ukraine in the Western camp is much better by far than not having it.
And instead of letting it be a Russian colony or part of Russia's, it was as was the case in the Soviet Union era. But the problem here, of course, is that we see a lot of hesitation right now in Washington and in other parts of the American society that in terms of whether they want to see Ukraine as something that ever should be part of the Western camp for real, which means NATO membership, really. This is what we are talking about here. And unfortunately, there are many people right now argue in the exact same way as they did during the first year of the 2000s when the Baltic membership in NATO was discussed, for example.
They argue that Russia is too keen on dominating Ukraine, too keen on having Ukraine in their sphere of influence, too keen and too problematic to deal with in other ways than what they currently are doing. I have to say, though, that if you look at what the Americans said in the beginning of the war and what they're saying now in terms of what kind of help they're sending militarily and what kind of things they're doing, especially compared to the European Union, of course, or the European Union countries rather, they have been engaging themselves very, very much in Ukraine.
And we see aid packages being introduced or being, let's say, ameliorated in many ways and being bigger by every month, more or less. So the engagement has been pretty interesting in that sense. The problem is whether this is going to be the end state or not and where the new borders are. And I agree completely. I mean, from a Swedish perspective, we have had problems with Russia since the 14th century, as you have, I guess, so and so on.
But I mean, this has been a constant problem because Russia is and has always been, for the last few hundred years, the biggest country geographically speaking on the Eurasian landmass and it has had a tremendous ability to create problems for its neighbors during all these years. And I agree, we need to keep it out. That is the major strategic goal of most people explicitly or implicitly in Western Europe and definitely in Sweden as well.
Yeah, just could you approximate, could you tell our audience a bit more about the key geostrategic objective of Sweden over the last couple of centuries? And then we'll come back to escalation management in Ukraine by the US, which is very interesting and you touched upon it a bit. But, you know, give us the broader picture of the, you know, you didn't take part in World Wars, but still, you know, you participate, not participate, but you were involved in this way. And that was probably a decision, a government decision to behave like that.
So what is basically, you know, we are neighbors across the sea, but still people don't know too much about Sweden probably, you know, we are here on the continent, along the main axis of movement, Germany, Russia, you know, France and Sweden is very close, but politically and geopolitically, it seems far away. And I, for example, I am of a different opinion and that strategy in future, we think that we have very close and, you know, near interest between you and us. And we don't understand that. So that's why I'm at this moment of our conversation. I'd like to draw something from you so that you can share your perspective.
What is, what are the objectives for Sweden, you know, for the last couple of centuries? Yeah, well, you have to bear in mind, as well as I'm saying this, that we tend to change our grand strategy fundamentally every 200 years, which is an interesting perspective in many ways. When we started off as a country, which is about 500 years ago, we were in a union with Denmark. Denmark was then the dominating power in Scandinavia and had for 100 plus years run a union with us and what's now Norway that was part of Denmark then.
We weren't part of Denmark, but we were in the union with Denmark and we kind of kicked them out in the early 16th century because they were overbearing and we wanted, you know, Sweden to be Sweden as it is more or less right now, including Finland at that time. Then in the 17th century, we engaged ourselves in the Continental Wars, as you know, in terms of especially the 30 years war, we were running around in Germany. And why did you do it at that time? Well, it was, I can't say I'm an expert on that, but it was seen as a natural thing because Sweden wanted to become a great power at the time.
We're talking about early 17th century and had the military ability to do it. We were pretty good at fighting at the time. We had a king Gustav II Adolphus, who was pretty famous at the time. He was inventing some things in terms of fighting tactics and the like. We know him very well. We encounter him on battlefield on several occasions. I know, I know. That was after his death actually, but I was a fellow at the SWP, the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik in Germany, which had then its headquarters in Bavaria, south of Munich. Munich is far from Sweden, you know, it's very far down south.
And I had, this was in the mid 90s, and I had colleagues there my own age. They were in their 30s, late 20s, early 30s at the time. And they told me that their grandmothers had said when they had misbehaved that if you don't behave, the Swedes will come and get you. And this was the saying then from the 1630s when we occupied Munich for three or four years, and probably ransacked the city as well. I'm not familiar with details, but we were so far south as Munich, which is kind of impressive. That's very long, very far from Stockholm anyway.
But that was our kind of last attempt to be a big power, and it didn't fail. We were very successful in the late 17th century as well. In 1658, for example, we struck a peace deal with Denmark, conquering essentially what's now Sweden, including the southern tip of Sweden, which was very truly Danish at the time. And at that time, we also had major possessions in the Baltic States. Most of Estonia, for example, had Latvia, what's now Latvia, and so on. So we were also fighting on the northern coast, of course, of both Germany and Poland. So at that time, we were kind of a small empire. And then we overstretched, more or less.
We fought the Russians again and again, sometimes successfully, and mostly not successfully, ending then in 1809 when we lost Finland. And that was the major blow to us as an empire. We then went back to our current state in terms of geographic borders anyway, and decided, or the French king that we had imported at the time, was still, I mean, his family still, the royal family of Sweden, by the way.
And he said that you're too small, you have too little population, you're too poor, you can't afford being in great power, confine yourself to your own territory, forget Finland, and start building up your own society, which was a very isolationist take, really, which you want to do, or to phrase it in modern terms. But geography allowed you to do it. Yes, certainly. And we had borders, there were good borders everywhere. We had a major river as a border to Finland, which was then Russian territory, of course, as the great dacha of, or whatever it was called, Finland, the Russian dacha of Finland.
We had a big mountain range that kind of was the border to Norway and to Denmark and Germany and Poland, we have the Baltic Sea, which is a good border in its own right. So we were able and we could afford to be very isolationist. The neutrality posture came as kind of, or non-aligned posture, depending on which which era we're talking about, came as a logical or logical, but still a way of dealing with this isolationist perspective.
And that unfortunately became an ideology as well after the Second World War, especially in the 60s and 70s and partly the 80s, where for domestic reasons, the then dominant power in Sweden, the Social Democratic Party, used the policy of neutrality and the policy of non-alignment to, for domestic political purposes, it was seen as less American and less capitalist, if you wish, in the left-wing wave of the late 1960s. It was ideal, ideologized in a way. Interesting, but still you were preparing heavily for war with the Soviet Union. We should understand that Sweden was not aligned, but it was not armless.
Yeah, and quite on the contrary, we had, when I did my military service myself in the 1980s, we had about, after mobilization, we would have had the defense force about 800,000 troops, including 30 army brigades, 340 pretty modern fighter planes, 55 surface combatants, 12 submarines, also a home guard system with troops everywhere. I mean, we had a very militarized society. Every major state agency, for example, would have its own home guard unit, the Tattooed Autonomous Heist Unit, which was composed of the workers or the employees of that agency with their guns, I mean, real military weapons in the cellar basement of that agency.
So in the event of a coup or a swift attack, like in Norway in 1940, all the Swedish state agencies would be defended by their own employees with military grade weapons in hand. So it was very militarized. All new cars, Swedish made cars, Volvo's and Saab's and so on, were included in the military system as well. So as soon as a war would break out, every driver of a recent or decently new Volvo or Saab car would be knowing exactly where he would drive it because it would be needed in the war effort.
And then the army would give him a receipt and say, well, thank you for your car, you'll get it back after the war. Tractors in the farming industry, for example, were also involved in this. We had a complete system for one single purpose, to deter the Soviet Union from attacking. It was called the Hedgehog Defense Principle. I mean, you know, hedgehogs, but that's the point of things on them. I mean, this was the thing. You should make the Soviet Union to make a detour around Sweden rather than go through it to reach its objectives.
At the same time, though, and this is when the Swedish grand strategy becomes interesting, all our military thinking was directed on countering a Soviet attack anyway from the Kola Peninsula roughly through Finland and through the northern parts of Sweden to Norway and the Norwegian ports to be able to counter NATO activity in the high north and also to, as Hitler did in the Second World War, to control the Norwegian coastline as a whole, because that's very beneficial if you want to counter the Americans.
So all my military education and all the planning we did when I was, I am still a reserve officer, but I'm not called in anymore because of the reduction in size of the Swedish armed forces, which has been more than 90 percent, as I'm sure you know. We have had reductions, not more than anyone, perhaps, but at least as big reductions as any other country, unfortunately. And we're now slowly and painstakingly building up that again, but it will never reach the full full kind of size that we had in the 1980s, and that's why we joined NATO, by the way.
I mean, the parts that be here realized that we cannot build up again the tremendously integrated and big defense. So that was the underlying reason as opposed to the Cold War where you didn't join NATO, so to speak, even though Soviet Union was more powerful. We didn't join NATO, but we took the consequences of not joining NATO with or through building up a tremendously big and pretty impressive, although under-equipped sometimes, but still on force overall. I mean, you can compare 800,000 Swedish troops out of a country of, at that time, about 8 million people. That's 10 percent of the population, enormous, you know.
And if you compare that with the current active-duty force of the United States, which is, if memory serves, about 1. 3 million, and the United States is about 34 times bigger than Sweden in terms of population, actually. So you see the difference here. I mean, of course, there's much better equipped, they are professionals, they work all the time within the system. And we didn't, I mean, if you were a soldier or a conscription-based officer or a reserve officer, you were in a few weeks a year or a few weeks every second year.
That was the training you had after doing your basic military training, but you were still in the system until you were 48 years old. So you had constant contact with the armed forces all your life, not all your life, but most of your life anyway as an adult. And this went for males only at the time, but still, we had a very integrated approach to this.
After the end of the Cold War, on the other hand, we did the same mistake as we did after the First World War in 1925 when we reduced the army by some 70 percent or so, but now after the end of the Cold War, we reduced the armed forces with 90 percent, 90 plus percent, actually. Things got more expensive, so we are still paying quite a lot for the armed forces, but the structure is somewhat ridiculous in terms of, at least in comparison to the Cold War. We've now one brigade in the army and maybe working towards two brigades in the next short-term future.
But again, only 30 years ago we had 30 brigades, you know, much less equipped, much, well, they had weapons, but they were still organized. As brigades, everybody knew where they were going. We had very extensive training systems for the officers. They knew exactly what their plans were and what they were supposed to defend and so on and so forth. We don't anymore.
I mean, if you have two brigades on a territory of 450,000 square kilometers, then you understand that the only thing we will know with these brigades is that they will probably be in the wrong place anyway, for if there is an attack somewhere, the Russians will be able to direct it where these two brigades are not. On the other hand, though, and this is a major change for the Swedish army, for example, which I still belong to. I'm a captain in the reserve of the army. They're now starting with the NATO membership happening probably very soon.
They're now planning for other things, expeditionary fighting, expeditionary abilities for countering the Soviets, not the Soviets, but the soon to be sort of Soviets, the Russians in Finland and the Baltic States, for example. Yeah. Are you planning for that? This is very interesting. Yeah. Yeah. Even before we decided to apply for NATO membership, the armed forces had political approval, so to speak, of planning for one of the brigades that we will have. And the plan is to have about three brigades before 2028, I believe. One of these brigades would be planning for things in Finland and having as their major task to support the Finnish troops in Finland.
And this was done without any political problems really well, with some exceptions, of course. But that was way before actually the NATO application. And now that's even more, of course, acute in a way. We need to figure out where the Swedish army is going to be used in the best possible way. And that will probably not be on Swedish territory. I wouldn't say that we're in the backwater, but we're more of a staging area these days than as a front state, so to speak. Finland and the Baltic States and Poland are front states in that sense. Yeah. Very interesting.
People in Poland don't realize how militarized Sweden was during the Cold War. You know, because you were not involved in this duel, so people don't get it. People think that Sweden is a very pacifist country, you know, very nice people talking to, you know, this sort of superficial. And at the same time, people here appreciate very much your geographical location if there is an war with Russia. And if you decided to join NATO, your airspace, for example, gives full access to the Americans across the Scandinavia towards the Baltic States and Poland. And that changes the calculated balance of power in the Baltic Sea.
And, you know, the supply routes to the Baltic States decreases the importance of the pain of the Svoboda corridor, because you can reach the Baltic States easily by water and by air. The Russians cannot stop it, so to speak, if Sweden is in the game. Plus, of course, if there is any war and Sweden is with us, we can redeploy to your huge territory, do something like that. And this is a strategic depth, whether you call it a staging area or strategic depth, it's of secondary importance. For us, it absolutely, your accession to NATO changes everything. Yeah. Also, now we're planning towards the Baltic States and the Svoboda corridor.
Which is one of the major benefits of our application, I would say. And thus, I've been myself, you know, arguing for more than 25 years now that we should join NATO and now the entire political establishment here. Due to Mr. Putin, of course, I mean, this could have dragged on for another few years. But the problem was fundamentally that even if Putin hadn't attacked Ukraine the way he did, we would have realized sooner or later that we cannot, that our policy of non-alignment is absolutely untenable if we have one brigade instead of 30, you know, three submarines instead of 12, seven surface combatants instead of 55 and so on and so forth.
And so it was the policy of neutrality and non-alignment was based on a high level of militarization of Swedish society, high levels of defense expenditure, by the way. I mean, during the period from the Second World War's end until the late 1980s, we paid more than 3% of our GDP on defense every year. Maybe descended to or decreased to 2. 8 or something in the 1980s, but twice as much easily as we have been paying the last 30 years. So we took the consequences of staying out the NATO during the entire Second World War.
When I did my military service in the 80s and realized what we were up to and how we had done things and so on, I felt no need at all to join NATO because that was not needed. You know, we could kind of defend ourselves. We could stop the parts of the Soviet nation that would be directed against us because the major thing in the Cold War was, of course, the war on the European continent, not in Scandinavia. That would be a sideshow anyway. So a full-scale Soviet assault only on Sweden was seen as a non-issue. I mean, that wouldn't happen.
What would happen or could happen was a major war in Central Europe and we were then able to fend off any Soviet incursions in our part of the world. But when we had scaled down and decreased and dissolved so much of our military posture as we did after the end of the Cold War, then that entire policy of non-alignment neutrality became hollow and eventually absolutely you know useless for us. And it was an ideological vestige if you wish.
I mean, it was something that should be said by certain political forces, especially the Social Democratic Party for domestic reasons and from the not so common Communist Party and the Greens for ideological reasons because they hate the United States. And thus, NATO was a bad idea, the United States being the dominant partner in NATO. But now that changed dramatically and what put the Swedish Social Democrats on the right track was the very swift changes in Finland because the Social Democrats in Finland ran the country when Putin was attacking Ukraine and they changed pretty rapidly. It was a matter of weeks actually. And in Finland you never had this ideologicalization of neutrality as we had in Sweden.
They were forced to be neutral in the Cold War because of the treaty with the Soviet Union. They never liked it and thus they changed it much easier than what the Swedish Social Democrats did. Yeah, highly interesting things you are saying now. And you know, since you then shifted to accession to NATO, if you take a look at another side of the same coin from the American perspective, it now seems that the Americans will have more and more commitments to the countries that have no proper military on their own. And that also touches upon this sort of escalation management that the Americans demonstrated during the war in Ukraine, so far at least.
I find it highly interesting and I'm very curious what you think about it. Given the fact that there are nuclear weapons in stocks, given the fact that we are living in a globalized world with so many domains of competition, river recuperation, technology trade, you name it. So everything is so interconnected. And still this is a pure symmetrical battlefield between Ukraine and Russia, close to Russian heartland, to the core interests of the Russian Federation, being a nuclear power.
And Americans are heavily involved in really helping the Ukrainian South, touching close to probably some red lines that are not on paper, you never know where they are, and still both Russians and Americans, in some probably unspeakable way, or unspoken way, unwritten way, are fighting within a certain set of rules of escalation. You know, it's a fascinating in a way how they manage, and still the most difficult part is still ahead of the United States, because you know, in order to win, you still need to defeat the Russians at the same time making sure that they accept that they are losing within the set of rules.
And of course this is treating Ukrainians and there are question marks whether they will are part of the West, they will be accepted, NATO, they are accessionate, all those difficult, humanly difficult things, right? Yes, sure. But still from the perspective of the escalation, management escalation, this is. . . Yeah, well, we see. . . What do you think? There are a lot of things here that are making sense really. One thing that we've seen a lot of lately is the issue of nuclear deterrence.
My own agency received a big grant from the Swedish government to study this, I mean, theoretically and in terms of making it useful to relevant partners and so on, but still we've realized, and the government realized, that we know too little about nuclear strategy, for example, we have been kind of keeping that outside Sweden for so many years that nobody is really, with the exception of nuclear disarmament of course, that's been a big thing, but nuclear strategy in terms of how people or states with nuclear weapons are planning to use these weapons if need be, that's something we haven't been studying at all, not in my agency either, with some exceptions.
I've been writing myself a little bit about that 10 years ago, but and so on, but still we have a deficient understanding of what is nuclear strategy in this new world, if you wish. And we've seen that, I mean, the corollary to that is of course the Russian tactical notes in Belarus, which is apparently happening right now. We see a lot of Polish interest in the nuclear sharing of NATO, for example, which we follow also with great interest. We see a lot of things happen on the nuclear front and this relates to what you were saying, namely the escalation management issue.
How do you deal with a nuclear adversary, which is engaged in a very bloody and full-scale war of aggression against another country that you want to support, but which is still not part of your own alliance? It's very, very, very, very, very pragmatic obviously, and we need to do this right. That was done, you know, during the Cold War. We had a number of very nasty near-death experiences, especially in the first part of the Cold War, the Berlin air bridge.
Yeah, you know, in Poland there is a major debate now, you know, since we are field modernizing the, reforming the military and extending the numbers, and there is a major debate what this military is about to be doing, whether it's going to be only defense as an auxiliary force of the U. S.
If there is a war, NATO or we are a self-standing army that we will be using with some sort of discretion to be agreed, you know, up front with the United States in a proportionate manner that we can in a reciprocal way respond to provocations from the, and whether that calls for this active defense with hitting targets inside the enemy's territory that threaten us within this under Article 5 trans-hold, you know, and that also calls for this escalation management procedure. And then the triangle, us, Russia and the United States, because the United States might try to leash us a bit.
And this is, you know, so nuclear strategy that we are thinking of strategies in the future is not only about, you know, using your weapon or just being a great power, but also being a non-nuclear power that is trying to, you know, live and have still some agency in the triangle by, for example, you know, putting Americans in the position that they need to react and reaffirm the extended nuclear deterrence and still giving us the umbrella where we and conventional warfare can do something to protect ourselves and, you know, make a conventional deterrence, even from the hybrid threats. Yeah. So this is a very complex story that Poland has not exercised intellectually at all.
So I really wonder how the Swedes will cope with that as well. Well, we're, I believe, behind you in this case, because you've had a debate on, and I believe your Air Force has been participating as well in the NATO nuclear exercises like Steadfast Moon and so on for a number of years now. We haven't, and we are now figuring out what our Air Force should do in the event of planning for nuclear strikes, for example, I mean, which is part of the deterrence posture, if you wish, of NATO.
And this is very sensitive in Sweden, of course, as we've been governed by politicians have been very much on the nuclear disarmament side rather than on the nuclear policy side for decades, if not 50, 60 years. And this means that we need to discuss these things very carefully, otherwise it could backfire. And, you know, we are getting emotions and ideology into the mixture rather than clear strategic thinking. But it's a fact, though, that we as non-nuclear, we are also a non-nuclear power, as you know, although my agency was built on the premise to build the first Swedish nuclear weapons, that was in the 1940s and 50s, so it's a long time ago.
And we decided not to, what the politicians did. But we need to think more about this, we need to think more about to integrate not only the Americans, but also all the NATO countries in the Baltic Sea area, because that's the, for us, the important area. I mean, the Norwegians really want us to be engaged in the I-North too. They wanted us to be part of the Norfolk Command, for example, the NATO command structure, my understanding now is that we will belong to the Brunson Command, which Poland does as well, I guess.
And that is, in my thinking, good strategic sense, because it means that we will focus on the Baltic Sea area, the online states, which is not Sweden, with the exception of the island of Gothenburg, but still, we will focus more on providing help to staging areas or strategic depth or whatever you want to the countries. This will be the main military task of the Swedish Armed Forces. This is a brand new thing. We were defending our own country for 200 years, and only thinking about defending our own country.
And then we had, of course, in the 90s and the first years of the 2000s, we had this kind of an expeditionary force idea of helping international crisis in Afghanistan and bongo, bongo, wherever. But we've kind of given up on that now and are focusing on our own strategic neighborhood, which I think is the same thing to do. Yeah, very interesting. We have run out of time and I could talk to you for hours about that. We just touched on the interesting stuff. I promise that I'll get back to you, hoping to convince you to record another one. Thank you very much.
Our guest today was Michael Wienerschtig from Sweden, from FOE, an excellent report that we read at Strategy in the Future and highly recommend to everybody who wants to know more about strategy and everything that we have discussed. Thank you very much for, you know, hearing. Thank you, yeah. Great to be talking with you again. Looking forward to see you in Warsaw or some other place. Sure. Thank you. Thank you very much. Very much. Bye-bye. you.