Most Swedes support mandatory military service: poll

Amid concerns about moving to an all-volunteer military, a new poll shows the majority of Swedes want to retain the country’s current system of mandatory military service.

Most Swedes support mandatory military service: poll

The greatest support for mandatory service comes among young men, 74 percent of whom want to maintain it. The corresponding figure for the entire population is 63 percent, according to the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

Overall, a slightly higher number of women want to continue with mandatory military conscription, 65 percent, versus 61 percent for men.

Among young women, however, support is somewhat lower – 61 percent – than among women in general.

The recent government proposition on the future of Sweden’s military calls for mandatory military service to be phased out in favour of an all-volunteer military in order to save money and to create a leaner and more flexible Armed Forces.

But brigadier general Bengt Axelsson is doubtful whether the assumed cost savings will actually be realized.

“I want to raise a warning finger. It’s not going to be possible to achieve the volume of soldiers people are now counting on having by relying on volunteers,” he told SvD, who fears that Sweden’s military will end up with fewer and less-competent soldiers.

“It’s clear that it’s going to be more expensive because we’ll employ people significantly earlier and for longer periods of time. It will become more expensive and it’s obvious there’s a risk we’ll get a lower-quality system.”

Military leaders from neighbouring Denmark and Finland also warned that Sweden’s decision to scrap military service could have negative consequences.

“Mandatory service is a very cost-efficient defence solution. Many European countries who have abandoned military service have had lost of problems recruiting,” Gustav Hägglund, former head of Finland’s armed forces, to SvD.

He added that part of the problem is that the best candidates often choose other careers, while those who end up choosing the military of often people who don’t have so many other alternatives.