Sweden proposes reintroduction of compulsory military service

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Sweden’s government on Wednesday proposed the reintroduction of compulsory military service, as the country continues to rebuild its national defenses amid rising tension around the Baltic Sea.

The proposal, which was generated by a government inquiry, would see the recruitment process for military service begin in July of next year, with the training of new entrants to start in early 2018.

The inquiry recommended Swedes born in 1999 and 2000 form the first intake. It proposes 4,000 new recruits be trained in 2018.

The move is the latest step in a ramp up of the Swedish military, which has seen defense budgets rise and troops deployed to the strategic Baltic Sea island of Gotland for the first time in a decade.

Sweden, which isn’t a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has also sought to tighten its ties to the Western defense alliance and reach defense cooperation agreements with the U.S., Finland and the U.K recently.

Sweden’s new focus on its military is part of trend in the region which followed Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and more aggressive rhetoric from Moscow toward its western neighbors over recent years.

Countries around the Baltic Sea have been increasing their military spending and NATO is set to deploy several thousand soldiers to the Baltic states soon.

Concerns about a disappointing level of recruitment to the Swedish military have swirled since conscription was dropped in 2010.

The number of voluntary recruits has consistently fallen short of targets and the idea of reintroducing some form of obligatory service has been talked about with increasing frequency.

“I hope we can find a system now with long term stability so we can leave this question of personnel supply behind us,” Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist told a news briefing.

The new proposal will now be sent out to a range of interested parties, from employers’ organizations to public authorities, for comment. When that process is complete, by the end of January 2017, responses will be used to decide how to move forward, the defense minister said.

Mr. Hultqvist said he would also be consulting opposition parties in the hope of securing broad support for the changes.