Sweden: A common defense against Russia
Ordinary Swedes are once again being asked to step up and defend the nation, said Jonas Bergstrom in Folkbladet. Sweden had national conscription for men for 109 years until parliament scrapped the policy in 2010. At the time, the center-right government believed there were enough volunteers to meet the country’s military needs. It was wrong. The Swedish armed forces now have about 20,000 permanent military personnel, and are short 1,000 active troops and 7,000 reservists. Faced with rising tensions with Russia, the center-left government last week announced it was reintroducing the draft—this time for both men and women. The idea has broad support among nearly all political parties, and some three-quarters of Swedes are in favor. We know that “all of us” must protect our democracy; this isn’t a task that can be handed to a few professionals. Of course, not every young Swede will be drafted. Under the new plan, some 4,000 18-year-olds could be called up each year.
When the draft was abolished, our neighborhood seemed safe, said the Sydsvenskan in an editorial. But the security situation around the Baltic Sea “has markedly deteriorated” as Russian President Vladimir Putin has grown more belligerent. The Kremlin has repeatedly tested Swedish responses, buzzing Swedish airspace with warplanes and sailing submarines close to Swedish ports. Worse, Russia has demonstrated that it is prepared to use force to change borders. Moscow snatched Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and is now fighting a covert war in that country’s east-ern regions. Neutral Sweden—which isn’t - a NATO member—will need more than a few thousand extra troops to meet this threat. Our defense spending dropped from 2.6 percent of gross domestic product in 1991 to just over 1 percent in 2015. Do we have “the willingness and ability to pay what is necessary” to bolster our defenses?
We do—as long as we spend wisely, said Robert Bjorkwall and Jaan Ungerson in the Goteborgs-Posten. Our first priority should be to beef up our civil defense system, starting with “a national inventory of our often dilapidated bomb shelters.” A future conflict may well involve nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons, and people will need to be able to shelter in place. All of those preparations will do little good in a time of crisis if our nation isn’t self-sufficient, said Katarina Ostholm in Vestmanlands Lans Tidning. Swedes should relearn how to farm the land and how to generate energy from hydropower. We need to staff small dairies, mills, and hospitals, so that we will have “the ability to live and survive in the event of blockades and large-scale collapse.”
Our great strength is our people’s willingness to pitch in, said Anders Lindberg in Aftonbladet. While Sweden has been “at peace for over 200 years, thanks to our nonalignment, a strong defense, luck, and diplomatic skill,” we don’t take peace for granted. We are one of the world’s “freest and richest” countries, and defending this way of life “is everyone’s responsibility.” ■