STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s parliament on Tuesday approved a 40 percent increase in the defense budget for 2021-2025 because of tensions in the Baltic Sea region in recent years, with officials saying Russia is the main reason for the move.
The 349-member Riksdag assembly approved the largest hike in 70 years, bringing the annual defense budget by 2025 to 89 billion kronor (U.S. $11 billion).
Defence Minister Peter Hultquist told the assembly before the series of votes that “it is the largest investment since the 1950s.”
The proposal was put forward in October by Sweden’s two-party Social Democrat-Green Party minority government, and it received immediate backing from two smaller opposition groups.
The government described it as sending a signal after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, repeated airspace violations by Russian military aircraft in the neighboring Baltics and a military buildup in Russia’s exclave of Kaliningrad, which sits across the Baltic Sea from Sweden.
“There is much to suggest that Russia’s military capabilities in absolute terms will increase throughout the next 10-year period,” the adopted proposal read.
The plan will see the armed forces grow from the current 55,000 positions to 90,000 by 2030. Several disbanded regiments will be reestablished and the number of conscripts will increase to 8,000 annually, which is a doubling compared with 2019. The Navy will receive new equipment and there will be upgrades in armament.
Sweden currently spends 1.1 percent of gross domestic product on defense. Guidelines issued by NATO, of which Sweden isn’t a member, advise that members spend 2 percent, although many do not achieve that target.
In December 2017, Sweden decided to establish the nation’s first new military regiment since World War II — a unit of 350 soldiers based on the strategically important Baltic Sea island of Gotland.
In the same year, Sweden also introduced a selective military draft for men and women, having previously abolished a men-only draft in 2010.