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Stefan Löfven; Swedish navy vessel

Sweden announces military conscription amid frosty Russian relations

Sweden's defence minister announced the reintroduction of military conscription next year due to difficulties filling the ranks on a voluntary basis, citing increased security concerns.

Published: March 6, 2017, 8:40 am

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    “We have a Russian annexation of Crimea, we have the aggression in Ukraine, we have more exercise activities in our neighbourhood. So we have decided to build a stronger national defence,” Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist told Reuters.

    “The decision to activate conscription is part of that.”

    Sweden, a non-aligned country, ended compulsory military service in 2010 but concerns in the Baltic region prompted Sweden to step up its military preparedness, the minister says. The reintroduction of the draft will include both men and women selected from those born in 1999 and onwards.

    During the Cold War, military service was compulsory for Swedish men, but conscription was gradually eased after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    Last week Sweden’s newspaper Svenska Dagbladet published a list of ten Russian weapons capable of changing the existing balance of forces in the world.

    After president Vladimir Putin’s election, the Russian military, starved of funding since the 1991 Soviet breakup, got a new lease on life with the arrival of new weapons systems and regular large-scale exercises, the newspaper wrote.

    In January the Swedish Institute of International Affairs accused Russia of using fake news, false documents and disinformation as part of a coordinated campaign to influence public opinion and decision-making.

    They maintain that Sweden had been the target of “a wide array of active measures” aimed at “hampering its ability to generate public support in pursuing its policies” but admitted it was impossible for researchers to establish the source.

    “We are able to establish intent, dominant narratives, behavioural patterns and strategic goals, where the close correlation between Russian public diplomacy and active measures suggest the operation of a coordinated campaign,” it said.

    And Moscow’s main aim was to “preserve the geo-strategic status quo” by minimising NATO’s role in the Baltic region and keeping Sweden out of the international military alliance, the study concluded.

    “We believe it demonstrates an intent to influence decision-making,” Martin Kragh, one of the report’s authors, told Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

    Sweden’s prime minister, Stefan Löfven, told a national defence conference that he “cannot rule out” Russia trying to influence the country’s next elections, which are due in 2018. Löfven spoke at the ‘Folk och Försvar’ national conference at Sälen, following US media reports about “Russian” hacking used to disrupt Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

    Russia denied the allegations, but the prime minister expressed concern that similar incidents could take place in Sweden. “We should not rule it out and be naive and think that it does not happen in Sweden. That’s why information and cybersecurity is part of this strategy,” Löfven told the TT news agency.

    “We’ve got elections in France and in Germany this year and probably in Italy. I think all countries are now thinking about what could happen in our democracies,” Löfven added.

    The Kremlin hit out at what it says are “baseless allegations substantiated with nothing” and claiming the assertions by the American media are part of a political witch-hunt.

    Relations between Sweden and Russia have been frosty recently, with Swedish security services claiming Russian spies are operating in the country and Russia in turn accusing Sweden of peddling “James Bond theories” instead of using diplomatic channels to discuss matters of concern.

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