On March 2nd, Sweden announced that it was reinstating military conscription beginning in January 2018. The decision comes following anxiety of recent Russian military activities in the region.
Sweden has seen a decline in military recruitment averaging only 2,500 new troops each year. The country plans to draft approximately 4,000 per year for military training in an attempt to curb the deficits.
Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist told Reuters that in addition to low recruitment, Russian aggression was also a factor.
“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,” according to Hultqvist. “The decision to activate conscription is part of that.”
Reenacting the draft is the latest act by Sweden to strengthen its military. Last year it permanently stationed troops on the island of Gotland, which holds a strategic position in the Baltic Sea. Gotland had been without a permanent military installation since 2005. Gotland is adjacent to the $11 billion Nord Stream natural gas pipeline that is owned by Gazprom, which is owned by the Russian government.
While Sweden has had a cooperative member with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), it has never been a full member. However, increased Russian activity in the Baltic region has some wondering whether Sweden should reconsider its neutrality and apply to join NATO.