Due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, Scandinavian countries have begun strengthening their military capabilities, with Sweden being the latest to update its military policies.
On Monday, Swedish Prime Minister, Ulf Kristersson, announced that steps are being taken to reintroduce conscription for civilians in order to improve Sweden’s emergency response services. It is an unusual move for a country with a longtime history of peace and neutrality. The changes come as the war in Ukraine approaches the one-year mark.
Kristersson said in a press conference with Defense Minister Pal Johnson and Civil Defense Minister Carl-Oskar Bohlin that the civil service is “going back to a situation where we have a formalized civil duty.”
The reason given for the reactivation of Sweden’s conscription was the war in Ukraine, but also Russian aggression and a need to bulk up the country’s readiness in case of a state of emergency or an attack.
While conscription details are being sorted out, local media has reported that as many as 3,000 individuals could be called to service during the initial phase of the plan. Sweden has not had a conscription plan in place for emergency services since the height of the Cold War.
Bohlin emphasized that the plan is being implemented in response to the conflict in Ukraine, saying, “Experiences from Ukraine are clear – when it comes to protecting the civilian population, rescue services are put under very heavy pressure.”
“We do not know exactly how many may be covered by the duty. We see that the municipal rescue service today is not designed fo the demands of a high alert and ultimately an armed attack,” Bohlin added.
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Although Sweden had maintained civil conscription throughout much of the 20th century, the government decided to cancel it in the mid-2000s as the Cold War had ended more than a decade prior, and Europe had not had a major conflict since WWII. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the actions of other countries increasing their military power, have since changed Sweden’s outlook.