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Sweden calls in reserves over Russian unrest

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Sweden calls in reserves over Russian unrest
Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist. Photo: TT
14:36 CET+01:00
The Swedish government has announced plans to re-train Swedes who were previously conscripted into the Swedish army, in an effort to increase the country's war capabilities after recent Russian unrest.
"The world has changed in a negative way," Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist told Swedish broadcaster SVT. 
 
He cited the rearmament of Russia, the country's annexation of Crimea in Ukraine, and the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine as justification for the re-training plans.
 
The move will mean that around 7,500 people who have served in the Swedish army since 2004 may be called in for a month of re-training. 
 
"The armed forces will be able to carry out fully-manned war preparations which will result in increased operational capacity," Hultqvist explained.
 
Hultqvist says Swedes have nothing to worry about. Photo: TT
 
Karlis Neretnieks, a retired major general and the former president of Sweden's National Defence College, was pleased with the news.
 
"I am extremely happy about this decision. The Armed Forces have had really big problems recruiting enough people on a volunteer basis," he told The Local.  
 
"We'll be able to call on these former conscripts and then carry out exercises with full units - resulting in a more efficient and higher level of training."
 
He added that the move was a positive signal for the Swedish public. 
 
"The environment in the Baltic states and the Baltic Sea is getting a bit nasty, a bit unpleasant, and this move is a good signal to show that the Swedish government has reacted to the developments," he said. 
 
"It's also a good signal to our neighbours that Sweden is concerned. People in countries like Poland, for example, have complained that Sweden hasn't seemed to be reacting to what's been going on."
 
Neretnieks added that Thursday's announcement was interesting from a political perspective with a fresh set of elections looming in March. 
 

Swedish Armed Forces train in Stockholm. Photo: TT
 
"Voters are concerned about the state of the Armed Forces and this government is showing that it's taking defence seriously compared to the last government," he explained. 
 
Indeed, around 65 percent of Swedes quizzed by the Aftonbladet newspaper said they thought the refresher courses were a good idea.
 
The only problem, the retired major general concluded, is that the courses will be costly - but he added that it would be money well spent. 
 
"We can only hope that the move will be followed up by an allocation of funds. Otherwise it's nothing more than a symbolic gesture."
 
The earliest the training could be introduced would be the beginning of next year, reported the TT news agency. 
 
When The Local talked to Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist last month, he said that despite a submarine intruding in Swedish waters, there is "no immediate threat against Sweden".
 
"I think that there is a new security situation in the Baltic area and in the Baltic Sea. We see more exercises, we see more intelligence activities and what has happened now has confirmed that we are in another situation, if we compare this to the situation five or ten years ago," he explained.
 
"We have no immediate threat against Sweden but we have a security environment around us that has changed in a negative way and that is why we need to develop and deepen the discussions about how we cooperate with other countries."
 

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