The Swedish Arms Industry
Despite nominal neutrality and pacifist branding, Sweden is one of the world’s largest arms exporters. The country’s defense industry is seeking to expand at home and abroad.
Sweden is internationally regarded as an exemplar of social democracy, European pacifism, and the Nordic model of development, which prioritizes a comprehensive welfare state, collective bargaining, and high public sector employment. Swedish government ministers have described the country as a “humanitarian superpower,”1 a self-image that dovetails with egalitarian domestic policies and Sweden’s historical military neutrality. It is perhaps then surprising that, despite a relatively small population of just over 10 million people, Sweden is one of the world’s largest exporters of weapons. In 2014, it was the third largest weapons exporter per capita at $53.1 per capita, behind only Israel at $97.7 and Russia at $57.7.2 From 2009 to 2019, it was the world’s ninth largest arms exporter in U.S. dollars with a cumulative value of $14.3 billion.3 In the same time period, it ranked eighth in arms as a percentage of total exports.4 Swedish factories produce not just small arms, but advanced systems like fighter aircraft, missiles, tanks, submarines, corvettes, and air-defense platforms.