HELSINKI ― Tight budget constraints for defense have resulted in Swedish opposition leaders questioning the government’s capacity, or willingness, to release sufficient funding to the military to cover the procurement of an American-made Patriot missile system.
Sweden has already received clearance from the United States in February 2018 to proceed with a $1 billion deal to acquire a complete Patriot air defense system from Raytheon.
Latest organizational strength assessments, produced by the Swedish Armed Forces for the Ministry of Defence, suggest the military will lack adequate funding in 2019-2020 to cover its day-to-day operational needs or to proceed with key procurement programs, including the purchase of Patriot missiles.
Opposition leaders have proposed an alternative solution that would see the Patriot missile program funded through a special allocation separate from the main defense budget.
The Christian Democrats party has threatened to block the deal from proceeding unless the government agrees to create a separate funding vehicle for the Patriot missile program. The party, like the opposition Liberals party, who are generally supportive of the purchase, fear that the military’s operations would be seriously impaired if burdened with such a high-spend acquisition.
“It would be good to have a political decision. We realize that there are different views between the parties. We stand by our assessment that we and the Defense Materials Organization has made that this is the right way to go. The Patriot missile system is important for the overall defense of Sweden’s air defense,” said Gen. Mikael Bydén, chief of Sweden’s armed forces.
However, a Patriot missile deal has its critics. Carl Bildt, a former conservative prime minister of Sweden, believes the government has delayed too long in its decision-making process around the procurement.
“It would seem that for the government, the procurement of a complete missile system is now about convenience rather than functionality or suitability for the military and Sweden’s air defense. The Patriot missile system that Sweden initially started negotiations on is at this stage outdated and not fit for our needs. The project should be reviewed in this light,” Bildt said.