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Swedes Told How To Prepare For Security Issues Including War


In a few days, every household in Sweden will get a booklet in the mail titled "If Crisis Or War Comes." The inclusion of the word war in what is essentially a guide to emergency preparedness has brought a lot of international attention to this booklet, much to the surprise of its creators. Here's Sidsel Overgaard.

SIDSEL OVERGAARD, BYLINE: The 20-page booklet, already available online, is startling in its range of advice, everything from the detailed...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: If the electricity goes off at a cold time of year, cover the floor with rugs and build a den under a table to keep warm.

OVERGAARD: ...To the shockingly broad.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: If Sweden is attacked by another country, we will never give up. All information to the effect that resistance is to cease is false.

OVERGAARD: If that last bit sounds a little dated, it's because it's more or less a direct quote from earlier versions of the booklet sent to Swedes during World War II and into the Cold War. Back then, the pamphlet was called simply "If War Comes." Now, the title and purpose has been expanded.

CHRISTINA ANDERSSON: We start with crisis - if crisis or war comes. So crisis is the main focus.

OVERGAARD: Christina Andersson works with the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, which created the booklet at the request of the center-left government. She says recent surveys have shown that Swedes are increasingly worried about security issues but not very informed.

ANDERSSON: So this booklet is actually a tool so - to make people feel that they actually can affect their own security.

OVERGAARD: The booklet touches on everything from natural disasters to IT attacks, terrorism and even fake news. Andersson says the media's obsession with the war part is a little misplaced.

ANDERSSON: It's not wrong, but it's far from the whole story.

OVERGAARD: But the threat is real, says Fredrik Bynander from the Swedish Defence University.

FREDRIK BYNANDER: We are now seriously considering what would happen if another country - i.e., Russia - should decide to use part of our territory in military operations.

OVERGAARD: He says that while Swedes may joke about the mid-century feel of the booklet, Russia's annexation of Crimea brought the country's debate about defense roaring back to life.

BYNANDER: What kind of policy do we have? Would we be a pushover or not? And I think that the pendulum is swinging towards a much more robust political atmosphere here where more and more people are saying, no, damn it, we would resist.

OVERGAARD: But even as the debate picks up speed, Niklas Granholm at the Swedish Defence Research Agency says it's hard to know exactly where Sweden and its neighbors stand.

NIKLAS GRANHOLM: It's not really the same as it was in the Cold War, but it's also very clear that we are in some kind of confrontation or conflict on various issues here.

OVERGAARD: He says IT attacks, for example, or a tax on the electrical grid might be used by Russia to soften up future opponents. Does that count as war or crisis or something else?

GRANHOLM: I think I would be willing to buy some kind of adult beverage to someone who comes up with a good name for this.

OVERGAARD: Whatever it's called, Sweden wants its citizens ready. For NPR News, I'm Sidsel Overgaard in Denmark. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sidsel Overgaard
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