The Swedish government announced plans to establish a state-run agency aimed at protecting upcoming September elections from possible Russian meddling.
The Swedish Defence Ministry also plans to send an emergency advice booklet to some 4.7 million Swedish households to instruct civilians about what to do in the event war breaks out with Moscow.
The government’s plan to set up a counter-propaganda agency was reportedly prompted by recent Russian attempts to influence the outcome of elections in France, Germany and Spain.
Speaking at a security conference in Stockholm on Sunday, Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Loefven said that the government is aware of the Kremlin’s efforts to influence the upcoming vote, scheduled for 9 September. The establishment of a new agency will help tackle the threat as well as “bolster the psychological defence of the Swedish public”.
Loefven also added that he would hold in-depth discussions with representatives of Swedish media in the coming weeks to “increase awareness of foreign influence” aimed at the country’s democratic institutions.
Loefven’s statements about his country’s preparedness to counter Russian propaganda and prevent Moscow from interfering in Sweden’s election process mirrors the same concerns as other European governments, but plans by the Swedish Defence Ministry to circulate Cold War-era civil emergency booklets is a significant move by those who are pushing Stockholm to join NATO.
Christina Andersson, from the civil contingencies agency, a Swedish administrative authority organised under the Ministry of Defence, said the decision was “the result of the current security situation in the region” as Russia intensifies its military manoeuvres.
In 2015, the defence ministers of five Nordic countries – Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland – agreed to strengthen their military cooperation to “counter the Russian threat”.