Sweden bolsters military over 'Russian rearmament'

11th December 2014, Comments 0 comments

Sweden brought back the option Thursday of using reservists to boost its military force, citing "Russian rearmament" as one of the reasons for the decision.

"We see how the world around us has changed in a negative way: partly the Russian rearmament, partly Russia's annexation of Crimea and the armed conflict in Ukraine," Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist told public broadcaster SVT.

The government decision reversed a 2010 vote by parliament that ended compulsory military service and suspended the possibility of calling up former conscripts and volunteers for compulsory re-training.

Now the Swedish armed forces can oblige 7,500 Swedes -- who received military training between 2004 and 2011 -- to participate in training exercises from the end of 2015, Hultqvist told SVT.

"With this decision the armed forces can carry out exercises with fully-manned military units, which will mean an increase in operational capacity," the defence minister said in a statement.

The decision does not require a new parliamentary vote and will apply for ten years.

Sweden, which has a long tradition of neutrality and remains outside NATO, has had an intense security debate in recent years, after a decade of military cutbacks and an uptick in Russian airforce activity near its Baltic Sea airspace.

Since the end of military service in 2010 the Swedish armed forces have struggled to attract new recruits.

When Russia staged a simulated bomber attack on the capital Stockholm in early 2013, the country's airforce failed to respond, prompting the chief of the armed forces to say the country lacked the ability to defend itself for more than a week.

A week-long hunt for a suspected Russian submarine in October led to an increased committment to the country's military from the Social Democrat-led government which took power in September.

"We will defend our territorial integrity with all available means," Prime Minister Stefan Loefven said, issuing a stark warning against any future incursions.

© 2014 AFP

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