Borg’s defence cuts ‘would be devastating’

Finance minister Anders Borg's call for an annual four billion kronor cut in the Swedish defence budget would have "dramatic consequences" according to Supreme Commander Håkan Syrén .

Borg's defence cuts 'would be devastating'

Two weeks ago Anders Borg argued that by 2010 the military should cut its spending by four billion kronor, or ten percent of the total budget. The cuts would primarily come from new equipment purchases.

The finance minister said that defence minister Mikael Odenberg was on board – though Odenberg said that was a “misunderstanding”.

That apparent disagreement in the Swedish government has created confusion, said the Supreme Commander.

“The picture isn’t clear, the political signals are not unambiguous. But I can’t plan from the guesses and a politcal debate. I have to react, I can’t just sit and watch,” said Håkan Syrén.

He called for a clearer link between the military’s tasks and resources.

“We are in the process of far-reaching reforms which are not yet concluded. To make further reductions now isn’t viable without discussing what changes they want as a result,” he said.

“I can’t cut operations myself, that’s for the government to do. That’s how the military works in a democracy,” added Syrén.

Despite the strong reference to “dramatic consequences and devastating effects” in his weekly newsletter, Håkan Syrén declined to outline what these would be.

“In the autumn we’ll be talking about how the defence should develop in the long term. But if the conditions are now changed, we need to sit down again with our taskmasters,” he said.

In a direct comment on Anders Borg’s statement, the Supreme Commander warned against hasty decisions being taken.

“In the end it is our politicians’ role to decide the job of the military and future defence budgets, but I am seeking an unconditional discussion which starts with the operations which today’s and tomorrow’s Swedish military has been assigned. Most of all we should avoid drawing conclusions too hastily and too early. Not least when it comes to the finances,” wrote Syrén.

He concluded his newsletter with an appeal to defence minister Mikael Odenberg.

“I understand that my view in that respect is completely in line with the defence minister’s position,” wrote the Supreme Commander.