Sweden eyes NATO help in combating propaganda

Sweden is considering joining the Riga-based NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence, which aims to strengthen NATO communication capabilities, Radio Sweden reported Monday.

 "We need more skills and this is a new environment, a new arena, where many things are happening connected with disinformation. You utilize this for different purposes to affect public opinion in other countries. That's why we need to strengthen our skills but also participate in an environment with other countries" said Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist to Swedish Radio News.

The minister said that Sweden would not contribute in areas of spreading disinformation and propaganda in cyber space.

A forged document claiming that the Scandinavian country was actively supporting the Ukraine government in its conflict with Russia was circulated on social media earlier this year, reported The Local. And Swedish authorities must brush up on their skills to fight propaganda wars, said Hultqvist.

“I think we have great potential for improvement in that area,” he commented.

"This is an area where we are not too far advanced and it's a good opportunity to cooperate with NATO and the strategic center. Sweden is not advanced in this because we kind of lost it after the Cold War," he told Radio Sweden. 

The StratCom center analyzes how NATO and other geoppolitical players use online channels to launch information campaigns.

“I view this as a way to build up competence. […] We will not contribute to spreading falsehoods and disinformation. The most important thing is to uphold the truth,” the minister said.

The Defense Minister also talked about Latvia banning channels for broadcasting propaganda, stating that the channels were based in Sweden and the companies owning them protested in Sweden, complaining that the ban is against the rule of law.

He stressed that on these matters there's a need to have the same view in Latvia and in Sweden. 

The center has partially focused on how Russia uses propaganda, but it has also looked at Islamic State and how NATO should exploit the available information channels.

A Swedish delegation from Society and Defense visited the center in Riga on October 14th to learn more about its future plans.

The Nato Strategic Communications Center of Excellence (NATO StratCom COE) was started in January 2014. It has seven signed up members - Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and the United Kingdom.

Sweden is not a member of NATO but has a number of broad cooperation agreements with the military Alliance.

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