Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has opened up for increasing funding for the Swedish Armed Forces in the coming years, while the centre-right opposition parties are pushing for a boost in defence spending as early as this year.
Speaking at the annual Society and Defence conference (Folk och försvar) in Sälen, Löfven, of the Social Democrats, said he was open to looking at increasing defence spending but stressed that further analysis was needed.
“It is quite possible that we need to increase our defence capacity further, let us analyse that and then put a price tag on what might be required,” Löfven told Swedish Radio.
The centre-right opposition parties – the Moderates, the Centre Party, the Liberals, and the Christian Democrats – have all proposed different defence budget increases with references to a more unstable security situation for Sweden.
In his speech in Sälen, Löfven accounted for the government’s new security strategy, which focuses on eight different threats. These include military threats against Sweden’s independence, terrorism, organised crime, as well as energy, health and climate issues. The prime minister also warned that Russia’s interference in the US election could be repeated.
“There is nothing to say that Swedish elections will be spared in the future,” Löfven said in his speech.
The opposition parties soon criticised the government’s strategy, with Liberal Party MP and chair of the parliament’s defence committee Allan Widman questioning how it would be implemented.
“What is missing is of course instructions and a framework for how the authorities are supposed to work with this in order to reach these goals,” Widman told Swedish Television’s news programme Aktuellt.
Speaking to the same programme, Moderate Party MP Tomas Tobé said he thought the strategy was on the border of being ‘brash.’
“The prime minister is now making an analysis about us having increased security problems with Russia being increasingly aggressive, he says himself that we have a problem with the threat of terrorism, and with organised crime in Sweden, but he is not drawing any new conclusions. Not a single additional krona to the Armed Forces in order to increase our capacity, not a single additional krona to the police,” Tobé told Aktuellt.
But on Monday afternoon, defence minister Peter Hultqvist pushed back against the opposition. "I will not be taking part in any public auction about the defence spending," he said at a press conference in Sälen. "That is not going to happen. I will not be pushed around back and forth in that kind of debate."
At the conference, Hultqvist met with the spokespeople on defence from the three parties in the opposition that reached a defence agreement with the government in 2015, that is the Moderates, the Centre party and the Christian Democrats.
After the meeting, Hultqvist announced that the talks will continue as before, which was confirmed also by the others present at the meeting, news agency TT reports.