Sweden has decided to reintroduce mandatory military service for both men and women next year, citing what it says is a military threat from Russia.
The Swedish Defense Ministry said on Thursday that thousands of male and female youths will be conscripted and selected for military training in a program starting in 2018. The decision has also been backed by the parliament.
Sweden, a member state of the European Union (EU), had ended compulsory military service in 2010.
Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist cited alleged Russian military buildup near the Baltic region and Moscow’s alleged involvement in the Ukrainian conflict as reasons for the decision. “We have more exercise activities in our neighborhood. So we have decided to build a stronger national defense,” he said.
The government will call up 4,000 men and women for military training per year in 2018 and 2019.
Back in December last year, Sweden’s Civil Contingency Agency asked local authorities across the country to improve security measures to face a possible military attack. The measures included maintaining and upgrading underground bunkers as emergency bases of operation.
According to a letter from the Agency, municipalities around the country were called to “increase their ability to resist an armed attack against Sweden from a qualified opponent.”
Sweden is not a member of NATO but cooperates closely with it.
NATO, which has suspended all ties with Russia since April 2014, has deployed thousands of its troops as well as military hardware near Russian borders. Russia has previously warned that it would take measures to respond to the increased activities near its borders.