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Defence Minister 'sets the bar too low': critics

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17:46 CET+01:00
Sweden's defence minister faced a barrage of criticism on Wednesday after she said it was “enough” for Sweden only to be able to defend itself militarily for a week if it came under attack.

Sverker Göranson, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, recently said that Sweden's scaled backed military leaves the country vulnerable. Sweden, he claimed, could only defend itself for one week if it came under attack.

Defence Minister Karin Enström responded that the level of preparedness was appropriate given the credibility of an attack.

“This is reasonable if you assess what threats there are and also what it looks like in our neighbouring countries, which have about the same capacity as we do,” she told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

She said there is no current military threat to Sweden.

Her statements were not welcomed by some of her colleagues. Allan Widman, military spokesperson for the government-coalition partner Liberal Party (Folkpartiet), was among her critics on Wednesday.

“I think a neutral country must have higher ambitions than this irrespective of the current situation,” he told the TT news agency.

He said it was difficult to properly assess threat levels.

“That's the tragedy of trying to assess threats to national security. I agree that the likelihood of attack seems low, but no politicians can rule out a military offensive.”

Widman pointed out that Nato is not obliged to come to non-member Sweden's aid, a point also made by the military coalition's secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen in the autumn of 2012.

The opposition Social Democrat party also expressed concern at the defence minister's attitude.

"It's remarkable and surprising that she thinks this is ok. You've got to set the bar higher,” said Peter Hultqvist, chairman of the parliamentary committee on defence.

The Swedish Armed Forces (Försvarsmakten) spokesman Erik Lagersten took to Twitter this week to explain further the statements made by the commander-in-chief.

Lagersten said the assessment that Sweden would only last a week refers to the effect of changes to the military that will have been completely phased in by the year 2019.

Story continues below…

The one-week statement also refers to a situation where the Swedish military has been dragged into low-scale conflicts for a few weeks before facing a full-scale offensive, but even then it refers to a scenario where Sweden is not the main target, but an ally of the target, of the aggressor.

The calculation was derived from research carried out before the military submitted its new budget proposal to the government. The documents are classified.

TT/The Local/at

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