25 March

The West is taking defence seriously again – which brings new and lasting challenges

FOI researchers have studied the military capabilities of Sweden and eleven other Western countries. The focus has been security and defence policy, military expenditures, armed forces, and the assessment of current operational capability and development, until 2030.


US soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, part of the 6th Marine Regiment participate in the international military exercise Cold Response 22, at Sandstrand, North of in Norway, on March 21, 2022. Photo: Jonathan Näckstrand / AFP.

Since 2015, the FOI programme, Northern European and Transatlantic Security, has been conducting studies on Western countries’ security and defence policy, resources, military capability, operations, exercises, and preparedness on behalf of the Swedish Ministry of Defence. In 2023, the programme launched its third comprehensive analysis of Western military capabilities since its inception. This time, the work is being reported as a series of publications, with the first instalment being released today: Western Military Capability in Northern Europe 2023 – Part I: National Capabilities.

“This report discusses twelve countries that are critical to the collective Western defence of northern Europe. We have used open sources and assessed the countries’ military development up to 2030. Then, this work will be followed by reports on how the global security policy landscape affects NATO’s capabilities and how NATO strategy and planning support the defence of northern Europe. Finally, the intention is to do a so called net assessment of the West’s capability,” says Björn Ottosson, one of the study’s leaders and editors of the report.

The twelve countries examined in the report are Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has accelerated national efforts.

“All of the countries studied now take defence more seriously and have ambitious plans to build up their military capabilities. They also provide military support to Ukraine to varying degrees. Furthermore, some countries, such as Germany, and also Finland and Sweden in seeking NATO membership, have fundamentally revised their security policies. At the same time, changing policies and major defence investments present new challenges, and it takes time to build military capabilities. It will require both determination and long-term vision to attain the goals set,” says Krister Pallin, who is the study’s other leader and editor.