“The Swedish Armed Forces can not almost only be focused on participating in international operations,” says Jan Björklund, leader of the Liberal Peoples Party, to daily Svenska Dagbladet.
The Liberal Peoples Party today present a new defence policy document, where they go against the stated policy that has guided the centre-right government they-self are a part of. The change in policy is justified by developments in the surrounding are of Sweden.
Jan Björklund, Minister
for Education. Photo:
“Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the focus of our defence policy has gradually shifted away from the defence of Sweden. Recent decisions are the most far-reaching. But it has been built on assumptions that developments in Russia have gone in the right direction,” Jan Björklund says.
But he feel that it is something that has not happened.
“Russia re-equips. They increase their presence in the Baltic Sea. Next defence bill should include a strengthening of the defence capability of Sweden,” Björklund says.
Angered Minister for Defence
Minister for Defence and politician of the Moderate Party, Sten Tolgfors, directly attacked Björklund's new stand on defence policy today.
“Björklund has had eight budget cycles in which to operate and finance an increased spending on the defence. That has not happened. Media moves does not give the Armed Forces new resources. But it creates uncertainty in an organization that is undergoing its biggest shift in decades”, the minister responds on his blog.
Tolgfors also reasoned that Björklund's proposal would be costly for the state.
"His proposal would cost several SEK billion to implement. To pretend that it is free is the same as a policy of black holes for the economy of the Armed Forces," Tolgfors writes.
Sten Tolgfors, Minister
for Defence. Photo:
Unusual with open conflicts
This is the second time this year that the Liberal Peoples Party and the Moderates have clashed in public about the governments defence policy, the first time was during a conference on defence policy in January.
Open conflicts between cabinet ministers is very unusual in Sweden.
It is hard to ignore the upcoming elections in September as the main reason for this rift in the government. As the second largest party in the coalition, the Liberals would like to specialize on defence issues, and thus take votes from the larger Moderates.
At the same time, defence issues are an infected wound in the Moderate Party, in which a military-friendly faction lost their influence a few years ago.