Professional army birthing pains in Sweden

The Swedish military has just (as of July 1st) converted from a conscript to all-volunteer force.  The planning and implementation seemed rather quick and there seem to be some kinks that need to be worked out.

Case in point:  overseas deployments.  In the old system, deployments were voluntary but in the new system, the government wants to make all service people liable for duty overseas.  Seems reasonable, right?  After all, everyone will have volunteered to be in the Swedish military and Sweden has a long standing commitment to international deployments.  So this sort of thing shouldn’t really come as a shock.

But, the four (FOUR?!) unions that represent military personnel object to the new rule, according to the Local.  Soldiers that refuse to serve under those conditions risk being fired.

In other Swedish military news the Defense minister has proposed a new organizational structure.  The assumptions which underlie the policy include:

A concerted, direct military attack on Sweden remains unlikely in the foreseeable future. However, crises or incidents in our region involving the use of military force cannot be ruled out. Nor, in the longer run, can the threat of a military attack. Meeting these challenges requires relevant, up-to-date crisis and contingency planning, particularly with respect to strategically important areas and vital public services.

A military conflict in our immediate region in which one country alone is affected is virtually inconceivable. Sweden will not take a passive stance should another EU member state or Nordic country suffer a disaster or come under attack. We expect these countries to act in the same way if Sweden is similarly affected. Sweden should thus both extend and receive military support.

Sweden’s increased commitment to peace-support operations under UN and Nato command should continue. Continued participation in training activities and exercises under EU and Nato command, or as part of other bi- and multilateral operations, are important to the development of our operational capability.

Worthwhile points to note:

  • The present distinction between a national operational organisation and a special task force for foreign missions should be ended.
  • Although sustainability must remain a feature of Sweden’s defence, accessibility must take priority. Our defence forces need units which are immediately available to safegu
  • Mission specific, predefined battalion combat groups will make up the Army’s main operational units.  A battalion combat group is assembled around a tactical operations battalion equipped with reinforcement resources from usable units such as tank, air defence, engineer, logistical and intelligence units.
  • An increase from three available manoeuvre battalions today, to eight tomorrow. This means more than twice as much availability.
  • Twice as much capability for peace-support operations. It will be possible to keep 1 700 people in continuous engagement in international operations.

Clearly, the Swedes are going to try to continue to be major players in UN/EU sponsored operations.  It may be a very good time for them to make this move and try to gain more influence than a nation their size would normally be expected to have.  It’s likely that the U.S. and U.K. will be less inclined to get involved in international missions after getting their fill in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Sweden might be well positioned to fill any gap created by isolationist leaning policies by nations with larger militaries.

I also find it interesting that the only conflict they mention by name is the 2008 Georgian war.  I suspect that conflict had an impact in the region that doesn’t really resonate with most here in the U.S.

Today’s threats against Sweden cannot be dealt with by yesterday’s defence. The war in Georgia, for example, shows that developments can occur rapidly. This war went on for five days and was determined in two. Not many Russian soldiers were deployed to the area, but they came very quickly.

And now, time for some gratuitous Gripen footage:

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