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Swedish Army Hopes to Tackle Dwindling Staff Numbers With Mandatory Service

Sputnik News

15:59 29.09.2016

Unlike its Scandinavian neighbors, Sweden lacks conscription, and is now facing a dramatic shortage of over 7,000 soldiers due to its inability to offer adequate incentives for military service. However, it will soon see a return to a conscription-based army amid the government's incessant paranoia about Russian "threats."

Sweden abolished the compulsory military service in 2010 by a thin three-vote majority, becoming the first Nordic country to do so in 109 years.

The country decided to create a professional military instead, in accordance with the Armed Forces' own proposal. At the time, the emphasis was put on various international operations. Today, however, the security situation in Sweden has seemingly changed, as Sweden along with its Nordic cousins insists that Russia poses a threat.

According to government investigator Annika Nordgren Christensen, the Swedish Defense is currently about 7,400 soldiers short. As for the officers, Nordgren Christensen called the situation downright "alarming," as the current reserves will inevitably prove insufficient in times of crisis or war, Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter reported.

Wilhelm Agrell, a professor of intelligence analysis at the University of Lund, believes that a professional army has not worked from the very beginning.

"The bubble has been burst by the deteriorating security situation," Agrell said, as quoted by Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet.

The government study estimated that the armed forces will require at least 4,000 newly trained soldiers in 2018 and the same number in 2019. In 2021, the number needed will increase to 6,000, until finally stabilizing at 8,000 in the period between 2022 and 2025.

The new model was described as a mixture of goodwill and duty, where the number of people obliged to serve would depend on the volume of standard recruits available. Accordingly, motivation is seen as a key factor. Therefore, better economic conditions are proposed for the draftees during the service period of 9-12 months. Today, there is widespread dissatisfaction among Swedish soldiers with the starting salary of 18,000 SEK ($2,000) per month, which is 2,000 SEK ($200) lower than that of a supermarket cashier.

According to the government plan, young men and women will fill out questionnaires for future recruitment to the Armed Forces from July 1, 2017. Young adults born between 1999 and 2000 would be the first age group affected.

Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said that he hopes for an effective solution to the dwindling staff numbers.

"I hope we will be able to find a way to have a more stable, robust and functioning staffing system" the Social Democrat minister noted.

The new proposals will now be put through a four-month consultation period where courts, state agencies, local governments and NGOs will have a chance to respond. Meanwhile, the new conscription terms for both women and men are supported by a majority of Swedes. More than six out of ten of those surveyed (62 percent) think it is a good suggestion, according to a new survey by pollster Ipsos, performed for Dagens Nyheter. Conversely, Only 12 percent oppose the idea.

Swedes' participation in the military has fallen gradually since the Cold War era, when 85 percent of Swedish males were drafted. In the 1980s, the Swedish Army numbered around 180,000 soldiers. Today, the Swedish Army has only 20,000 active soldiers. Fully mobilized, the Swedish war units number 59,000 officers, soldiers, sailors and support staff. Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Austria, Greece and Cyprus are the only countries in the EU to feature a national service.


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