The (S)wedish idea of security: idealism or realism?
Abstract: Since regaining power in 2014, the Swedish Social Democratic party has pushed a security policy line combining increased spending on the Swedish armed forces and deepened international cooperation while at the same time maintaining the policy of military non-alignment. This tripartite strategy has been nicknamed the “Hultqvist Doctrine" after the current Swedish Minister for Defence. During this period, the support for Swedish NATO membership has increased both in parliament and among the general public. At the same time, the idea of remaining ‘neutral’ in foreign affairs is still prominent in the Swedish identity and particularly cherished by the political left. Legitimising the security and foreign policy can thus be described as a – arguably paradoxical – balancing act between upholding the idea and tradition of Sweden as a ‘neutral’ or non-aligned actor in foreign affairs while simultaneously seeking increased military security through deeper cooperation with NATO. Drawing on previous research on the development of Swedish foreign and security policy, this study aims to contribute to our understanding of the self-image and ideas that have formed the ambiguous character of the security doctrine pushed by the Social Democratic Party since regaining power in 2014. By conducting a Thematic Analysis of the discourse by Margot Wallström and Ann Linde – the Ministers of Foreign Affairs between 2014 and 2022 – this study identifies three themes that each capture a pattern of meaning across the dataset: ‘An independent force for good’, ‘Swedish Exceptionalism’, and ‘A democratic role model’. A key argument is that historical consciousness, dramaturgy, and a processual-relational approach to a large degree can help explain the dynamics of the Social Democratic Party’s ambiguous discourse around foreign and security policy and its development.
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