Sweden brings back military conscription amid Baltic tensions

Sweden brings back military conscription amid Baltic tensions

Swedish soldiers in Gotland, 14 Sep 16Image copyright

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The Swedish military has struggled to get enough volunteers in recent years

The Swedish government has decided to reintroduce military conscription – a move backed by the country’s MPs.

The decision means that 4,000 men and women will be called up for service from 1 January 2018, a defence ministry spokeswoman told the BBC.

They will be selected from about 13,000 young people born in 1999, who will be asked to take psychological and physical tests, Marinette Radebo said.

Sweden, a neutral country, is worried about Russia’s Baltic military drills.

In September, a Swedish garrison was restored to Gotland, a big island lying between the Swedish mainland and the three ex-Soviet Baltic states.

Ms Radebo said the return to conscription was prompted by “the change in our neighbourhood… Russian military activity is one of the reasons”.

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The conscripts will serve for nine to 12 months. The aim is to encourage them to become military professionals or to join the reserves.

Image copyright

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Visby, Gotland: Sweden has reinstated a military garrison on the strategic Baltic island

“If we want full and trained military units, the voluntary system needs to be complemented by compulsory military service,” Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist told Swedish public broadcaster SVT.

Sweden had military conscription until 2010, but previously only men were drafted.

Ms Radebo said that “70% of parliament is behind the decision to strengthen the military and co-operation with the countries around us”.

The closest co-operation is with Finland, she added.

Sweden and Finland are not in Nato, but co-operate closely with the alliance. Their Nordic neighbours Norway and Denmark are in Nato.

The Swedish recruitment system – a mixture of volunteers and conscripts – will be modelled on Norway’s, Ms Radebo said.

A Swedish government report on defence priorities for 2016-2020 says recruitment of reserve squad leaders, soldiers and sailors has “proved to be problematic”.

It details a range of measures to boost Swedish military capabilities, citing “the deteriorating security situation in Europe, particularly in light of the Russian aggression against Ukraine”. Deeper defence co-operation with Finland is “critical”, it says.

According to a 2015 research paper by Barbara Kunz of the IFRI Security Studies Center, Sweden has about 52,000 full-time military personnel – 20,000 of them permanent staff and most of the others Home Guard members.

Sweden brings back military conscription amid Baltic tensions

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