Sweden to Relaunch Civil Conscription Amid Military Buildup
The initiative, which in effect is the civilian equivalent of military conscription, comes alongside other defense plans ranging from increasing military spending to 2 percent of the GDP to nearly doubling the number of military conscripts.
The Swedish government is admittedly taking steps to reintroduce the conscription of civilians for its emergency services in the latest move by the Nordic nation to bolster its military amid the recent NATO push.
Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson says that the civil service will start preparations for the move this week.
"We’re going back to a situation where we have a formalized civil duty," Kristersson said at a defense conference.
Civil Defense Minister Carl-Oskar Bohlin said the scheme will focus on deploying appropriately trained civilians within the municipal rescue services and bolstering their capabilities to respond in a state of emergency or a potential attack. He added that the government is engaged in "broader work" reintroducing civil conscription in other parts of the country's civil defense infrastructure too.
While it not immediately clear how many civilians the new initiative would involve, local media reports suggested that as many as 3,000 people could be called up during the initial phase of the plan, which echoes Sweden’s Cold War-era defense preparations. Civil conscription, which in effect is the civilian equivalent of military conscription, was previously abandoned in 2008.
This move comes alongside other defense initiatives, such as increasing military spending to 2 percent of the GDP (Some of Sweden's top brass, including Supreme Commander Micael Byden even called it the bare minimum). During the Cold War, defense spending peaked at 4 percent of Sweden's GDP (1963). After the dissolution of the Soviet Union (1991), however, the percentage fell gradually to a minimum of 1.0 percent (in 2017 and 2018). Furthermore, Sweden aims to nearly double the number of military conscripts to 10,000 by 2030.
The government had also launched talks with the US on deepening defense collaboration as Turkey continues to block its NATO membership. Sweden's Defense Ministry said it is negotiating a deal for "even closer" cooperation with the US both bilaterally and within the framework of NATO.
9 January 2023, 05:41 GMT
According to Defense Minister Pal Jonsson, the upcoming deal will cover issues from US soldiers’ legal status in Sweden to the storage and pre-placement of defense material and investments in infrastructure.
In May 2022, Sweden and Finland broke with decades of neutrality and applied to join NATO in response to Russia's special op in Ukraine, citing a "change in their security landscape." So far, only Turkey has refused to ratify their applications, citing security concerns and demanding the Nordic nations take a tougher stance against Kurdish organizations Ankara accuses of terrorism. Stockholm and Helsinki were even granted a list of people Ankara wants extradited — which is a sensitive issue for Sweden, which takes pride in its image as a champion of human rights.
Tellingly, during the very same defense conference, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said that Turkey has made some demands that Sweden cannot meet.