A Saab Gripen fighter jet at the factory in Linkoeping, Sweden.
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Alongside a global reputation for peacemaking and generous foreign aid, Sweden has become a major world supplier of weapons counting a number of regimes criticized for human rights abuses among its customers.Ranked the third-largest arms exporter per capita after Israel and Russia, Sweden's booming industry has stirred up ethical concerns among Swedes about some countries it is doing business with.Peace activist Martin Smedjeback said Sweden's original reason for developing a large weapons industry – the desire to be self-sufficient and independent – has vanished, along with the country's policy of neutrality as it develops closer ties to NATO.Several leading defense analysts argue that Sweden could buy fighter jets and other defense material more cheaply and efficiently abroad but that commercial interests stand in the way.Allan Widman, a prominent member of the governing center-right coalition, said that successive governments have had good reason to focus state support on two particular parts of the industry: jet fighters and submarines.Many defense analysts and peace activists reject that view, arguing that weapons represent just 1 percent of total Swedish exports and that government support is more a question of national pride – particularly when it comes to selling Saab fighter jets.
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