New defence minister refused to bear arms

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has promoted Trade Minister Sten Tolgfors to the post of defence minister, following the resignation of Mikael Odenberg, who quit in protest at cuts in the defence budget. Tolgfors's appointment has raised eyebrows after it emerged that he refused on principle to carry out military service.

Accepting the job of defence minister, Tolgfors said he accepted the prime minister’s vision for the future of Sweden’s military.

Tolgfors refused to bear arms when called up for military service in the 1980s, and was forced instead to perform his national service in the community sector. He later worked for the Red Cross. There, he changed his view of the use of military force after a Kurdish man showed him photographs of Saddam Hussein’s massacre in Halabja.

Announcing Tolgfors’s appointment on Wednesday afternoon, Reinfeldt said that there was broad agreement between the parties on the need to reposition Sweden’s military. He added that he was prepared to reevaluate how every single krona in taxpayers’ money was spent.

“Odenberg and I do not reach the same conclusions about reductions in the proposed budget,” he said.

Reinfeldt rejected Odenberg’s claim that the proposed defence cuts of 4-5 million kronor were baseless. They were based, Reinfeldt said, on the conclusions of the 2004 defence review.

Following Odenberg’s resignation, the government announced that it would establish a committee to review defence costs.

Reinfeldt said he would not appoint a new trade minister until after the Liberal Party’s conference ends on Sunday. TV8 has reported that Anna Kinberg Batra, chairwoman of the Riksdag’s European Union Committee, is lined up for the job.