22:36 GMT +325 June 2019
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    Swedish armoured personnel carriers are seen in Visby harbour, island of Gotland, Sweden September 14, 2016. Picture taken September 14, 2016.

    'Russian Threat' Helps Swedish Defense Wrest Another Budget Hike

    © REUTERS / TT News Agency/ Soren Andersson
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    Despite having previously requested 6.5 billion SEK ($760mln) to rescue Sweden from Russian aggression, the Swedish Armed Forces were pleased to settle for a 500 million SEK ($56mln) budget hike. Accordingly, the money will be spent on bolstering Sweden's Baltic defense.

    Earlier this week, the Swedish parliament agreed on an extra 500 million SEK to be invested in Sweden's defense this year. Although this is a far cry from the 6.5 million SEK the Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces Micael Bydén previously requested, the money will provide a quick effect, Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist noted. Bydén himself called the allocation "a positive first step," Swedish national broadcaster SVT reported.

    Whereas Hultqvist did not go into exact sums due to confidentiality issues, he indicated that the money will first and foremost bolster the defense of Sweden's largest Baltic island of Gotland, which was previously identified as a possible entry point for a Russian "aggression" and scheduled for re-militarization after a decade of peace. Additional sums will also be invested in cyber defense, readiness checks and patrol flights. In addition, Swedish municipalities and counties councils will intensify their comprehensive defense planning.

    Gotland, which has a population of almost 60,000, will have its air defense boosted with anti-aircraft guns, capable of shooting down fighter aircraft and helicopters. Last year, Gotland hosted a regiment of 150 troops on a rotary basis after a decade of demilitarization, SVT reported.

    Additionally, the Swedish Armed Forces is expected to increase its readiness as regards IT operations, emergency controls and incident preparedness. The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) will receive more funds to strengthen Sweden's cybersecurity and address foreign "disinformation operations" and "propaganda," both vague notions that include spreading a conflicting picture of Sweden. According to the National Defense Radio Establishment (FRA), today there over 100 countries that are developing techniques for advanced cyberattacks against other countries or foreign companies. Sweden is attacked on a daily basis, FRA reported.

    ​Furthermore, the money will be spent on involving more staff in planned exercises, the procurement of vehicles to the Home Guard and spare parts for the Armed Forces, as well as the spreading of military aircraft across the country.

    A female Swedish soldier participates in joint Russian-Swedish military training exercises, 12 December 2007, outside St. Petersburg in the town Kamenka
    © AFP 2019 / ALEXANDER DROZDOV / INTERPRESS
    While the half billion SEK will, according to Bydén, be spent on "the most important things" from the Armed Forces' wish list, Swedish pundits found the extra investment insubstantial.

    According to Swedish defense expert Mats Knutson, Sweden would need "billions more" to secure its defense. While the recent allotment is designed to address the most pressing shortcomings, Sweden currently lacks funds to procure new air defense systems (like the US Patriot), which was agreed upon in 2015 and is estimated to relieve Swedish state coffers of up to 20 billion SEK ($2.3bln), Knutson pointed out. However, he admitted himself that it remains uncertain where the money may be taken, citing high competition for tax money from health care, police, education, as well as the integration of new arrivals.

     

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    Tags:
    "Russian threat", defense budget, Peter Hultqvist, Micael Byden, Russia, Baltic Sea, Gotland Island, Scandinavia, Sweden
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