23:35 GMT +322 November 2019
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    A soldier from the Swedish Armed Forces, looks on from top of the Patria XA-360 AMV (Armored Modular Vehicle) at Hagshult Airbase

    Sweden Seeks Largest Defence Beef-Up in Decades in Light of "Russian Threat"

    © AFP 2019 / JONATHAN NACKSTRAND
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    Among other things, the Swedish Defence Forum wants four new regiments, double the number of conscripts, and a special brigade of 5,000 men to be able to support Finland during a crisis or war.

    A final report submitted by the Swedish Defence Forum to Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist proposes a major defence overhaul, dubbed "the greatest reinforcement since the 1940s".

    The goal of the defence expansion is to allow the country to survive three months without international assistance in case of a military attack.

    Among other things, the report suggests restoring the Norrland regiment stationed in Arvidsjaur and the Gothenburg amphibian battalion on Sweden's west coast alongside two brand new regiments, whose location is yet to be defined. Furthermore, an air wing in Uppsala shall be restored. The number of submarines will be increased from four to five, and more of the current-generation Jas Gripen fighter jets will be retained, the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter reported.

    Sweden's war organisation shall also be expanded from 60,000 to 90,000, including the Home Guard and civilians. The annual number of conscripts shall also be increased, from 3,000 to 8,000 people.

    The entire defence logistics, management and other support functions must be expanded, the report said, calling for major investments in quantity equipment such as trucks, special vehicles and ammunition. The acquisition of new material must be guided by the "design to cost" principle.

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    In total, military spending will be increased by SEK 5 billion ($500 million) per year by 2025, ultimately reaching 1.5 percent of the GDP.

    Defence Secretary Björn von Sydow warned of a deteriorated security situation, in which "an armed attack against Sweden cannot be ruled out", in effect repeating the "Russian threat" mantra often employed by Swedish top brass to justify defence allocations or military beef-ups, such as re-militarising the Baltic island of Gotland after only a decade of demilitarisation.

    "The security policy situation has deteriorated in Sweden's neighbourhood and in Europe. The Russian action in Georgia in 2008, in Ukraine since 2014, as well as in Syria since 2015, shows a Russia willing to use military means to achieve political goals", von Sydow said, citing "significant limitations in operational ability" the Swedish Armed Forces are currently facing due to personnel shortage and material deficiencies.

    The report named Finland as the country with which Sweden enjoys the deepest military cooperation. Still, the cooperation needs to be ehanced in order to make prompt decisions, the report pointed out.

    A separate brigade of 5,000 soldiers was proposed to back up Finland in the event of crisis and war.

    "Preparations should be made for up to a brigade, with reinforcement resources, to operate in Finland, in crisis, war danger or war", von Sydow said.

    READ MORE: Sweden Launches New 'Top Secret' Spy Ship in the Baltic Sea

    At present, Sweden's defence expenditure is about 1 percent of its GDP, which is a far cry from around 3 percent it enjoyed at the height of the Cold War.

    The Swedish Armed Forces number about 20,000 active personnel. After about a decade of a volunteer-based army, Sweden resumed conscription, once again amid specualtions of Russia's "assertive behaviour".

    With the 1814 Swedish-Norwegian War formally being the last one Sweden has participated in, Swedish aircraft took active part in the NATO-led 2011 military intervention in Libya, despite officially being non-aligned.

    Tags:
    defence, military spending, GDP, armed forces, Scandinavia, Sweden, Russia
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