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Citing a 'Russian threat,' Swedish government intends to impose military conscription

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The government of Sweden announced on March 2 that it intends to re-introduce military conscription for men and women born in 1999 and later. Assuming the measure passes in Parliament, registration will commence on January 1, 2018. The first conscripts will enter service the same year.

Sweden abolished conscription in July 2010. According to the Swedish daily Aftonbladet, about 180,000 young people born in 1999 and 2000 are the first potential conscripts. Some 13,000 will be called for registration in each of 2018 and 2019. Some 4,000 conscripts and volunteers will undergo military training in each of those years. This will be the first time that women in Sweden are subject to conscription.

According to Associated Press, about 20,000 people now serve and work in the Swedish armed forces -- eighty four per cent are male. The Swedish government says it is short 1,000 active troops and 7,000 reservists.

The current Swedish government that approved the measure is a minority coalition of the Social Democratic Party and Green Party, elected in September 2014.

The cited reasons by the government for conscription are twofold. It says volunteer recruitment will not meet its goals of military expansion, and it says that Sweden is under "threat" from Russia and other potential enemies.

Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist told AFP, "We are in a situation where Russia has annexed Crimea." He added, "They are doing more exercises in our immediate vicinity." The New York Times reports Hultqvist as saying that potential threats to Sweden from multiple sources have been overlooked. "From my point of view, many mistakes have been made over the years. The security situation and what could come in the future was underestimated." (More news and background here on RT.com: Sweden brings back military conscription for men and women).

A third goal of the government may be added, even if it cannot admit it. Military conscription will aid the propaganda effort of the Swedish government and its allies in NATO to convince their populations that Russia constitutes a "threat" to peoples and countries of Europe. After all, if a "peace-loving" country such as Sweden says there is a "Russian threat," surely there must be something to the claim? Doubly so when it is a soft-left, not right-wing, government that re-introduces military conscription.

Sweden is not a member of NATO. That dates from World War Two and its aftermath when Sweden was something of a neutral country and went on to posit itself as a force for peace in the world. But the country has always been a major producer and trafficker of weapons on the world market. According to the Stockholm Peace Research Institute, Sweden is a middling arms trafficker, ranking number 12 in the world for the years 2001-2015. That places it in the same league as Canada (four times Sweden’s population), the Netherlands (twice the Swedish population) and Switzerland.

Sweden signed onto NATO’s Partnership for Peace program soon after the program was launched in 1994. The program was created by NATO to bring under its fold the capitalist-restoration, smaller republics of the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and the "neutral" European countries such as Sweden, Finland and Austria.

In NATO/Sweden-speak, the current Russian "threat" stems from the fact that the people of Russia and Crimea are not taking lying down NATO’s ongoing military expansion into eastern Europe and its related sanctions and threats against them. (See here a map of NATO’s founding member countries in 1949 and its vast expansion in the 1990s and 2000s). Including that the so-called "Russian annexation" of Crimea in March 2014 was, in fact, an exercise in political self-determination by the 2.3 million people of Crimea provoked by a NATO-supported, right-wing coup in Ukraine in February 2014 that overthrew the country's elected president, Victor Yanukovych. A large majority of Crimeans had voted for Yanukovych in the 2010 presidential election in Ukraine.

NATO's threats have been boosted of late by U.S. President Donald Trump's stated goals of a vast expansion of the U.S. military including a new nuclear arms race against Russia that would keep the U.S. "at the top of the pack" of nuclear-armed countries.

Coincidentally, an early act of the right-wing government that came to power in Ukraine in February 2014 was to re-introduce conscription. It had been abolished by the Yanukovych-led government in 2013. Conscription was deemed necessary for the civil war ("Anti-Terrorist Operation") that the government launched in eastern Ukraine in April 2014.

Mainstream Western media is having a field day with the "Russian threat" side of the news story -- see The Independent (UK), The GuardianThe New York Times.

The Swedish government’s military posture may be described as, "what better way to prevent war than to get ready to wage it?" Its conscription decision is another reason why alarm bells should be ringing loudly for antiwar activists around the world. Too many have been distracted or confused by all the propaganda blaming Russia for the growing threats to world peace in eastern Europe (Ukraine), the Middle East (Syria) and increasingly in southeast Asia (the Korean peninsula). The blame lies squarely at the feet of the U.S. and its allies in NATO and in Asia.

Roger Annis is a writer and editor at New Cold War.org where this article also appears.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons/Ernst Vikne

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