Since the rise of the Iranian Republic of Islam in the 1980s, the Russian Federation in the 1990s, and most recently, the corruption of the Assad Regime in Syria in the early 2000s, both the Middle East and Europe have been dealing with an ongoing, shifting balance of power that has and will affect for years the political atmosphere of multiple nations that otherwise would be unscathed by outside influence.
Before the outbreak of the terrorist organization ISIS in 2011, Sweden had ended its 109-year-old mandatory military draft in 2010. Their ideas to get rid of it were not out-of-the-blue. They only had a total of 5,000 soldiers conscripted that year, a mere 10-percent of the amount mandated to join during the Cold War Era. The end to required military service seemed uplifting to Sweden, as peace looked to be just around the corner. But the world in 2010 looked significantly less violent than it does today.
“The re-activating of conscription is needed for military readiness.”
For the last few years, Sweden has dealt with numerous external forces that were impossible to foresee back in 2010. The problems it deals with today would not exist without a few major international events that began in 2012. After Syria created an alliance against ISIS with Russia in late 2012, NATO forces, including the US, were forced to stay out of Syria.
NATO had goals to oust the Assad Regime, declaring that Bashar al-Assad violated the war laws created in the Geneva Conventions of 1949, when he allegedly used chemical warfare on the people of Syria in the 2011 Syrian Civil War.
The Russian Federation, on the other hand, wanted to keep it as its strongest Middle Eastern ally. Since Assad and Putin’s friendship began, every move that the Russian Federation has made outside of its borders has revolved around growing its influence throughout the region.
Setting aside the problems Sweden faces, the Russian and Syrian alliance has created major uproar in Turkey. Since 2014, Russia has been initiating constant air raids on Syrian rebels and ISIS militants, and this has led to occasional violations of Turkish airspace by Russian fighter jets.
The regional hegemonial goals of Russia extend beyond the Middle Eastern scene, though. Starting in 2010, Russia began fighting Ukraine for the annexation of Crimea. After more violence occurred than expected from both sides, in 2014, Crimea was illegally annexed by the Russian Federation through which the Russian Navy gained major strategic strong points in the Baltic Sea, marking the beginning of Sweden’s concerns. In 2014, when Sweden began to express their concerns with Russia, immediate cyberattacks were initiated which, although never proven, Sweden blamed on Russian hackers. Since then, Russia’s actions have only grown more aggressive.
Starting in 2015, the US created a joint operation with fellow NATO forces in Norway, intended solely for military readiness. Because of Norway’s cold environment in the north, NATO thought it would be the best place to train for potential wars that may occur in freezing climates. Knowing of all the historical failures by multiple countries of conquering Russia due to the brutal winters that occur there, this military action seems a little suspicious considering the actions of Russia at the same time. Just months after that, Russia began doing some training of their own. This time instead of Norway, however, they would be on the other side of Sweden: In the northern regions of Russia, around eastern Finland. The actions of Sweden since then, seem like the most sane that any nation has done for at least the last 5 years.
On Thursday, March 2, less than seven years after the end of military conscription, Sweden formally announced it would bring its draft back. With one nation aggressively seizing the eastern side of Europe and the northwestern side of the Middle East, and multiple nations’ militarizing the western side of Sweden’s border, the historically neutral nation looks to be in potential trouble if forces on its western and eastern borders begin massive assaults on each other.
Like Belgium and the Netherlands during WWI and WWII, if NATO and the Russian Federation began fighting, Sweden would be thwarted by both armies, guaranteeing massive destruction in throughout the country.
Said by Sweden’s Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist, “The re-activating of conscription is needed for military readiness.”
While the country has struggled tremendously to get any military volunteers since 2010, a spokesperson from the the Swedish Defense Ministry told the story a little more bluntly than Hultqvist in an interview with BBC: “The Russian illegal annexation of Crimea, back in 2014, the conflict in Ukraine, and the increased military activity in our neighborhood are some of the reasons.”
For the last few years, similar to the problem in Turkey, Sweden has had alleged breaches of its airspace by Russian fighter jets. In 2015, Wilhelm Unge, the head of Sweden’s intelligence agency Säpo, estimated that one-third of the diplomats working in the Russian embassy in Stockholm were spies. The provocation that Russia has been showing toward the entire region has caused a public uproar throughout Sweden that the world has never seen before.
Sweden’s population has recently showed its irritation with Russia. A 2014 poll vote showed that the majority of the Swedish population supported NATO, which is the first time they’ve ever done this. Just two years earlier, in 2012, the same poll vote was given and the numbers were significantly lower: Only 17 percent of the population supported NATO in their efforts.
Meanwhile, military spending in the country, which dropped from 2.6 percent of the GDP in 1991 to 1.1 percent in 2015, raised by an astonishing 11 percent in 2016. The fact that Sweden is supporting NATO for the first time and have raised their military spending to 12.1 percent of the total GDP proves that Sweden is done dealing with the aggressive actions of the Russian Federation.
News Editor: Elizabeth Needham, Emanuel Abebe
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