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Sweden says Russia is main international threat to country's security

Sweden says Russia is main international threat to country's security Charlotte von Essen, Head of the Swedish Security Service (Getty Images)
Author: Maria Kholina

Russia poses the primary international threat to Sweden's security, and foreign adversaries may seek to exploit the heightened risk of extremist violence from Islamists and far-right groups, according to the head of Sweden's security service, Charlotte von Essen.

"We must all learn to live with the serious security situation. Above all Russia, but also China and Iran continue to constitute the biggest threat to Sweden and they are working and to a certain extent also working together to change the current security system," she said.

Last August, the agency raised its assessment of the level of terrorist threat to 4 out of 3 on a five-point scale after several incidents where people in Sweden and neighboring countries burned Qurans, angering Muslims and provoking jihadist threats.

In a statement accompanying the report, the security service said threats from far-right and Islamist groups could be inflated or used by Sweden's foreign enemies.

"Foreign powers can use violent extremists and other types of organizations and individuals as proxies to conduct security-threatening activities deniably," the statement said.

Fredrik Hallstrom, head of the security service's operational department, said that as an increasing number of Russian spies have been expelled from the West, Moscow is changing its tactics and "using more opportunistic methods."

Sweden's NATO accession

Sweden applied for NATO membership in 2022. The only countries delaying the ratification of membership were Turkey and Hungary. Recently, the Turkish parliament approved Sweden's accession to the Alliance.

The last step on Sweden's path to NATO is ratification by the Hungarian parliament. However, it is currently on vacation.

Recently, the Hungarian opposition proposed to hold an extraordinary session of parliament to ratify Sweden's application, but the ruling party boycotted it.

A bipartisan delegation from the US Congress plans to visit Hungary to discuss the ratification of Sweden's NATO membership.