Minister of Defense Peter Hultqvist announced March 2 that Sweden will reintroduce conscription “as a response to the new security situation” in Europe, including Russia’s assertive behavior in the Baltic Sea region.
Sweden has not had any armed conflict in two centuries, but compulsory military service was introduced in 1901. It wasn’t stopped until 2010, when it was deemed acceptable to replace it with a volunteer army. Recently, however, as Sweden was caught underprepared in a number of incidents with airspace violations with Russia, among other things, the security in Sweden’s vicinity has been questioned.
“We have a Russian annexation of Crimea, we have the aggression in Ukraine, we have more exercise activities in our neighborhood. So we have decided to build a stronger national defense,” Hultqvist said.
Sweden does have a professional army, staffed by volunteers. It has for the last two decades focused on peacekeeping operations abroad and less on the country’s defense, however, while juggling a dwindling budget. Sweden has roughly 29,000 active armed service members to Russia’s 831,000, meaning its military is about 3 percent the size of Russia’s.
But since 2014, concerns have risen about Russia’s intentions in the region — and in 2015 the Swedish government decided to remilitarize Gotland. Around 150 men have been stationed on the Swedish island in the Baltic Sea since September 2016.
Now, after the last few years showed it was hard to fill military units with volunteers, the decision was made to reactivate conscription.
The draft will restart in 2018. And for the first time in Swedish history, it will include women. It means all Swedes — male and female — born in 1999 and 2000 will be eligible as of July 1, 2017. Of the 100,000 in this age group, 13,000 will be called to be tested (the so-called "mönstring" that was earlier mandatory in Sweden). 4,000 will be called to service every year, requiring them to commit to 11 months of training.