Since the 12th century, Russia and Sweden have been rivals at several wars including the big two Russo-Swedish wars between 1741-43 and 1788-90. These two countries, due to their geographically close location and their cultural differences maintain a constant war threat to each other. Sweden has a neutral policy in armed conflicts since the 19th century although since 2009 Sweden has joined several treaties with EU countries including a long flirt with NATO.
Since 2018, Russia and Sweden maintain a cold war conflict: In March 2018, following the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, a former Russian military officer and his daughter, diplomatic relations between Sweden and Russia deteriorated further. The Russians accused several countries including the Swedes which was unacceptable by the Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallstrom. Both countries expelled diplomatic representatives of their territory.
In May 2018, a brochure was sent to 4.7 million households in Sweden with instructions on how to prepare for war. In June, all 22,000 Swedish volunteer soldiers were called up for the largest surprise exercise since 1975. On January 24th, 2019, the Russian Ministry of Defence has released footage of a Russian fighter jet intercepting and shadowing a Swedish Gulfstream reconnaissance plane over the Baltic Sea.
The Swedes are concerned following the Ukranian crisis in 2015 and raised up their defense level and diplomatic connections with Russia’s rivalry countries, in particular after Russia bombers operated next to Sweeden’s border.
In general, the Nordic countries concern of a Russian invasion that might be a doom scenario for these neutral countries as the Russians operates a strong military force including advanced weapons facilities.
Russia vs Sweden war – Can it really happen?
Well, who knows? The main reason for Russia to enter Sweden is the strategic location of Gotland at the Baltic sea in order to prevent NATO access. In the current situation, it is most likely that Russia will attack Sweden than the other way around. However, the Russians will not initiate any action versus the Swedes unless a large scale conflict with NATO members emerges. Russia knows that attacking Sweden will drag other countries to defend the Swedes.
The fact that both Finland and Sweden are not members of NATO worries Russia although both countries are NATO partner countries.
A war scenario between Russia and Sweden or any other country in North Europe (Finland, Norway, Denmark) is very unlikely. For Russia, it will be a war declaration against the west including the United States and the Russians has no interest in worsening their relations with Western countries. For Sweden, entering into a war is the last option – The Swedes neutrality provide them a strong economy and peaceful living conditions.
Russia vs Sweden – The Balance of Power
Head-to-head, Russia will most certainly overcome the Swedes. Russia operates the second most powerful military force in the world after the US with the highest supply of nuclear weapons of 6850 and manpower of 3,500,000 total military personnel. Sweden, on the other hand, has a smaller budget (6 billion USD compared to Russia 46 billion USD) and attention to military strength. Sweden has total military personnel of 43,800 troops and a weak air force and weapon supply compare to Russia.
Obviously, the balance of power changes as Sweden’s neutrality could attract a huge reaction of other superpower countries in the case of Russia’s attack. Norway, Finland, and Denmark will stand side by side next to the Swedes and other European countries will join to defend the Swedish nation. The United States will also get involved in this scenario.
It seems very unlikely that a war between Russia and Sweden may occur, however, the minor conflict between the two countries opens up another front in the case of a large-scale war.