Björklund critical

Last Friday’s agreement between the government and the Moderates, the Centre Party and the Christian Democrats to raise the defence budget to SKr 10.2 billion for the 2016-2020 period is an important signal to the world, according to Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist.

This is a boost of SKr 2 billion annually but, under the terms of the deal, SKr 1.7 billion will go towards the increased cost of employer contributions, and SKr 1.3 billion will be transferred from the budget for international operations.

In addition to this, politicians have also decided that a battle group of around 200 soldiers and a tank unit will be based on the island of Gotland permanently as of 2018. Furthermore, additional funds will be allocated to Sweden’s hunt for foreign submarines in its waters.

Outlining the terms on Friday, Peter Hultqvist did not rule out the possibility of tax increases to finance the deal.

Liberal leader Jan Björklund has since attacked the terms of the agreement, saying it is a huge disappointment. “Our defence capability is inadequate and that is bad for Sweden,” he said.

The party leader also accused his centre-right alliance colleagues of abandoning their call for an inquiry into NATO membership; instead it was agreed that an inquiry would consider Swedish security policy in relation to the Nordic countries, the USA, the UN, the EU and NATO.

“It will come to nothing; it will be nothing more than a general analysis, which has already been made,” he said, adding that no matter how many billions Sweden spent on its defences, NATO membership would involve greater security.

The fact that a divide has now emerged among the alliance parties is “regrettable but unavoidable,” said Björklund.

“It is unfortunate for the alliance that we are going separate ways, but even more unfortunate for Sweden that our defences are not strong enough,” he remarked.