Sweden: Defence talks continue without the Liberals

A Swedish Navy fast-attack craft patrols in the the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden, on October 18 2014.  (Pontus Lundahl/AFP/Getty Images)
A Swedish Navy fast-attack craft patrols in the the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden, on October 18 2014. (Pontus Lundahl/AFP/Getty Images)
In the ongoing cross-party talks about the future of the Swedish military, the government has offered to review the Armed Forces’ International collaboration efforts, while the three remaining centre-right parties have agreed on a figure for spending.

The centre-right opposition has previously demanded that the government looks into what a Nato membership would mean for Sweden, but Nato is not specifically mentioned in the government proposal.

The issue of Nato is however not cited as the reason to why the Liberal Party on Monday evening decided to leave the cross-party defence talks. Instead party leader Jan Björklund said it was because the funding proposed for defence over the next four years is too low.

“We have proposed to increase the spending with about 17-18 billion kronor, which is approximately what the Supreme Commander has proposed. But the government is not prepared to go anywhere near those levels, and then the negotiations don’t work,” said Björklund on Monday evening.

Defence funding

But the defence talks continue, now with five parties, instead of six. And on Tuesday morning, the three parties from the opposition Alliance that remain at the negotiating table came with their proposal for a defence budget. Swedish Radio News reports that the Moderates, the Christian Democrats and the Centre party want to see SEK 13,7 billion extra for defence over the next four years. This would mean  defence spending would increase by SEK 1,5 billion annually during the period.

The three parties had agreed on this already when the Liberal Party Leader Jan Björklund said he was leaving the talks, Swedish Radio News reports.

The government has previously proposed to increase spending by 6,2 billion, while the Moderates started off talking about 10 billion extra.

The proposals of increased spending are partly due to increasing costs for the Armed Forces following the government’s plans to scrap the rebate on the pay roll tax for the young and to demand higher economic safety margins from the agency that manages the defence real estate. But in the debate, what is seen as a more aggressive Russia also plays a role.

The politicians are trying to negotiate a new cross-party agreement on the priorities for the Swedish Armed Forces between 2016 and 2020.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  Canadian Rangers – The Watchers, Radio Canada International

Denmark:  Nordics to step up security cooperation on perceived Russian threat, Yle News

Finland:  Survey – More than half of reservists in Finland pro-Nato, Yle News

Norway:  Peace and stability crucial for Arctic economy, Barents Observer

Russia: Russia concerned by Finland, Sweden moves towards closer ties with NATO, Barents Observer

Sweden:  Sweden’s government scared of NATO facts: Moderates Party, Radio Sweden

United States: U.S. Arctic rep: Russia’s Arctic buildup not necessarily martial, Alaska Public Radio Network

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