Sweden CBRNe Country Profile


By Elisa Morin, Consultant at IB Consultancy

Security Situation Overview

Sweden ranks among the world’s twentieth most peaceful countries, according to the Global Peace Index 2019, and has not been directly involved in a war since 1814, which marks the beginning of its neutrality policy. Nevertheless, for the last decades, the country has been facing a number of growing threats that have been challenging its alliance-free foreign policy and led the country to invest again in its defense policy.

On the international scene, Russia is seen as a growing threat by Sweden, especially after its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in early 2014. This event was then followed by several episodes of tension between the two countries, including the encroachment of the Stockholm archipelago by a mysterious submarine the Swedish military suspected of being of Russian origin in late 2014.

In terms of internal threats, and although according to the Global Terrorism Index 2019, the situation in the country has improved. The Swedish Security Service’s assessment of the terrorist threat level remains the same as it was in 2010 which was at level 3 (out of 5). Sweden remains a target due to its active involvement in the fight against ISIS, which is exhibited in the country’s military involvement in northern Iraq. Furthermore, Sweden is facing the challenge posed by “returnees”, i.e. Swedish citizens who left to fight in the Islamic States and are coming back to their country of origin. In Sweden, since 2011, about 300 have left for Syria, 150 have returned and only two have been prosecuted due to the lack of an efficient legislative structure that incarcerates this form of criminality. For example, it is worth mentioning that Mohamed Belkaid and Osama Krayem, who are suspected of participating in terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels in 2015 were two Swedish returnees.

As of January 2020, Government statistics showed that a surge in drug-related gang-violence in Sweden led to a 60% increase in bomb blasts in 2019, during which 257 bomb attacks were reported according to the National Council for Crime Prevention. In order to concentrate the effort to prevent and fight violence, the Head of the National Operations Department decided on 10 November 2019 to activate Rimfrost, a national major incident operation that fights against criminal activities where weapons and explosives are used as tools in crime-related conflict. The latest national threat the country has faced is the COVID-19 outbreaks. On June 15th, there were 50,931 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 4,874 deaths. Sweden has favored the concept of herd immunity (which is a form of indirect protection from infectious disease that occurs when a large percentage of the population becomes immune to a virus) instead opting to not impose a full lockdown during the pandemic. Sweden’s COVID-19 mortality rate tops all Nordic countries and is among the highest in the world. In April 2020 a national investigation carried out to estimate how many people had been infected by COVID19 showed that, based on 1,100 tests carried out across the country, just 7.3 percent of Stockholm’s population had developed antibodies by late April.


Sweden has a strong heritage in the fields of disarmament and non-proliferation. Starting in the 1960s, Sweden was at the forefront internationally, representing non-nuclear-weapon states, and campaigning for disarmament control, in an attempt to bring an end to the arms race. As a consequence, the country is now part of many treaties, among which:

  • Conference on Disarmament (CD) – Multilateral disarmament negotiation forum of the international community established in 1979.
  • Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – Prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. Opened for signature in 1968.
  • Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapon (TPNW) – Includes a comprehensive set of prohibitions on participation in any nuclear weapon activities. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2017.
  • Convention on the prohibition of the development, production and stockpiling of bacteriological (biological) and toxin (BTWC) – Entered into force in 1975.
  • Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) – Convention on the prohibition of the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons and their destruction. Entered into force on April 1997.
  • Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention – Convention on the prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines and their destruction. Entered into force in 1999. Sweden concluded its destruction of its national stocks in 2002.

However, in July 2019, after the Government announced its intention to establish a Swedish knowledge center on nuclear disarmament, the Foreign Minister announced that Sweden would not sign the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) seriously damaging Sweden’s historic reputation as a leader on disarmament.

Overview of CBRNe and IED Stakeholders

At a national level, Sweden has numerous organizations involved in CBRN and C-IED. Within the Swedish Armed Forces, several Engineering Units (e.g. Göta Engineers (ING 2) are tasked with explosive ordinance disposal (EOD). CBRN Units handle chemical, biological, radiation and nuclear threats and incidents. Their primary role involves the detection, identification, monitoring, warning, reporting, physical protection and risk reduction of CBRN threat. The National CBRN Defense Centre (SKYDDC), is based in Umeå, and works as Sweden’s Armed Forces’ knowledge center for protection against chemical, biological, radiation and nuclear threats. The Swedish EOD and Demining Center (SWEDEC) is responsible for military and humanitarian EOD along with, mine actions on land. At government agency level, the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) reports to the Ministry of the Environment and has mandates from the Swedish Government within the areas of nuclear safety, radiation protection and nuclear non-proliferation.

The Ministry of Defense is responsible for Sweden’s military defense. The Swedish Defense Research Agency (FOI) is one of Europe’s leading research institutes in defense and security and its CBRN Defense and Security Division houses many of the country’s leading experts on chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear (CBRN) incidents.

Within Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA), attached to the Ministry of Justice, the Division for Crisis Preparedness is responsible for coordination and development issues for strengthening and monitoring society’s emergency preparedness and civil defense, together with administrative and development issues relating to protection against accidents, alarm services and hazardous substances (CBRNE). Several government agencies and other bodies are attached to this division. The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), is responsible for issues concerning civil protection, public safety, emergency management and civil defense as long as no other authority has responsibility. Within the Swedish Police Authority, also attached to the MoHA, the Swedish National Forensic Centre (NFC), aims to improve the preparedness, operational capacity and competence with regard to CBRNE.

Within the Public Health Agency of Sweden, which falls under the Ministry of Health, the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control (SMI)’s first mission is to monitor the epidemiology of infectious disease among Swedish citizens and enhance control and prevention of these diseases.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has a Department for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, which is responsible for the work on controlling, eliminating and preventing the proliferation of different kinds of (threats?) and monitors subjects concerning nuclear, biological and chemical weapons (weapons of mass destruction). At a regional level, within the Nordic Defense Cooperation (NORDEFCO), the working group Nordic Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear aims to establish a Nordic CBRN Centre of Competence (CBRN CoC), in Sweden in 2021.

Procurement and Capabilities

The Swedish Armed Forces is a tax funded authority and its annual budget is determined by the Swedish Parliament.

Sweden’s proximity with Russia, due to the fact that they share the Baltic Sea, is one factor explaining the recent shift in the country’s defense policy. Of the most notable changes, is the reinstatement of conscription in 2017 which was originally abolished in 2010. This was also attested to the general increase in military spending since 2014, introduced through the Swedish Total Defense concept.

In 2015, the four parties composing the Parliament introduced a bill on Sweden’s defense covering the years 2016 to 2020 which included planning budget increases, amounting the total defense spending over this period to SEK 224 billion (USD 4 billion). This bill notably prescribed a reorganization of the land forces with the creation of a CBRN Company and two Engineer Battalions. As for the Naval Forces, the bill provided space for the creation of two Mine-clearance Squadrons, one Mine- clearance Diver Squadron and the entry into service of new mobile sensors and mine-systems. In addition, the bill highlighted a need for additional procurement starting in 2021, including the need for minesweeping vessels.

Following this trend, in 2019, Sweden’s Defense Commission’s white paper for 2021-2025, the cost estimated for the proposals regarding defense efforts amounted to about SEK 4.2 billion (USD 450 million) annually towards the end of the period. To support this effort, on August 31st 2019, the Swedish government announced it would invest SEK 20 billion (USD 2 billion) into defense between 2022 and 2025 which is contributed to an increase in taxes in the financial sector.

Programs and Joint Operations/Exercises in the field of CBRNe


Once a year SWEDEC executes a national ordnance clearance exercise called Swedish EOD Exercise (SEE) with the Swedish Armed Forces, the Swedish Police Authority, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, and other authorities. The purpose of the exercise is to give participating EOD personnel an opportunity to practice their skills in a dedicated EOD exercise with a realistic environment while enhancing liaison between different organizations, coordination, and exchange between units.


The Total Defense Exercise 2020 started in November 2019 and will last until 2021. It aims to train the participants on how essential services and vital functions will be sustained. The exercise also includes running during crises alert and war in cooperation with others.

EDA – CBRN Joint Investment Programme

Sweden takes part in the European Defense Agency’s CBRN JIP, launched in 2010 to stimulate research & technology work in the field of CBRN. 2015: The European Defense Agency project agreement Joint Deployable Exploitation and Analysis Laboratory (JDEAL) signed by Norway and Sweden, giving access to deployable laboratories for C-IED training and operations.

Cooperation with NATO

Swedish scientists have contributed to numerous research workshops and seminars in the area of CBRN defense under NATO’s Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme. Furthermore, Sweden supports several NATO Trust Fund projects in other partner countries, including explosive ordnance disposal and countering improvised explosive devices.

NORDIC Cooperation

RECCEX CBRN exercises have been organized regularly since 2009 to train Nordic CBRN units to prepare for potential crisis. The last common Nordic RECCEX 17 CBRN exercise was held in November 2017 in Finland.


To conclude, despite its history of neutrality and non-alignment, Sweden has always been involved in a number of military and peace operations and defense exercises both regionally and internationally. The country is also fully involved in its CBRNe defense and has many agencies focusing on these threats. However, although the country has been advocating for disarmament and non-proliferation for years, signing many founding treaties going in that sense, the recent shift in its Defense Policy and increase in military expenditure highlights the constant new challenges Sweden is addressing, along with the imminent threat that Russia presents for the country.

About the Author

Elisa graduated from the University of Bordeaux with a “Global Security and Analysis” Political Science master’s degree in 2019. After working as a research and analyst trainee for a risk and strategic consulting firm in Paris, she joined the IBC team in November 2019.

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