Sahlin: Odenberg ‘was humiliated’

The head of Sweden's armed forces has expressed regret over the resignation of Defence Minister Mikael Odenberg, who quit on Wednesday in protest at defence cuts. Meanwhile, opposition politicians have seized on the resignation as a sign of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's weakness.

Sahlin: Odenberg 'was humiliated'
Photo: Magnus Selander

“I have had close contact with and trust for Mikael Odenberg, who has exuded enthusiasm for and knowledge of defence questions,” Supreme Commander Håkan Syrén said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon, according to news agency TT.

“I regret that he has chosen to take this step, but I understand and have respect for the fact that he has come to this conclusion,” he said.

Syrén will be holding a press conference later on Wednesday.

Social Democrats have jumped on the resignation. Leader Mona Sahlin commented on Odenberg’s dispute with Finance Minister Anders Borg:

“It’s very unusual for a Moderate finance minister to publicly humiliate a Moderate defence minister so deeply that he resigns. This has happened over a two month period, while a prime minister has looked on and done nothing.”

“I am deeply concerned that defence and security policy has clearly become a budgetary matter rather that a question of the situation of the armed forces and national security,” she told news agency TT in Tel Aviv.

“This leads to concern that the prime minister does not have a grip on budgetary questions, on his government and not least on security issues,” Sahlin said.

Liberal Party leader Lars Leijonborg, who is also education minister, said he was surprised by Odenberg’s resignation.

He described the decision to quit as “hasty”, adding that the decision to cut the defence budget was not yet final.

Defence commentator Colonel Bo Pellnäs said he felt “respect” for Odenberg for resigning on a point of principle.

“More politicians in this country should resign,” he said. Pellnäs added that he agreed with Odenberg that the government was wrong to commit itself to large defence cuts over a number of years.

Rolf Gunnarsson, deputy chairman of the Riksdag’s defence committee, described Odenberg’s resignation as “unexpected and regrettable.”

“We have had a good, well-functioning partnership, but I accept his resignation,” he said.

Peter Lundberg, CEO of the Association of Swedish Defence Industries, said a review of the strategy for Sweden’s defence industry started by Odenberg would continue.

“This is important work for us, but it always takes more time with a new person. It would be desirable if that person was knowledgeable about our priorities,” he said.