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Sweden ends compulsory military service

Sweden on Thursday ended 109 years of obligatory military service, setting the nation on the way to becoming a fully professional army.

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Introduced in Sweden in 1901, military service had been winding down for several years, with only those expressing a wish to serve picked during for conscription.

Sweden remained neutral during the two world wars, but with the Soviet Union nearby, wanted to have the capacity to call in 500,000 soldiers at short notice during the Cold War, out of a population of about eight million at the time.

At the height of the East-West tensions, nearly 85 percent of Swedish men carried out military service, with some 50,000 conscripted out of an age group counting 60,000 men.

The numbers have fallen dramatically in recent years, with only an average of about 5,000 conscripted soldiers, including several hundred women since 1980, serving each year.

"The military service ends in Sweden as of today, It was really about time," Sweden's daily of reference Dagens Nyheter wrote in an editorial, insisting that with Cold War finished, obligatory military service was no longer needed.

"The obligatory military service had become both old-fashioned and ineffective," it said.

The Aftonbladet tabloid however lamented the end of an era of social responsibility.

"There is good reason to fear that with the end of military service yet another level of collective conscience will disappear," wrote editorialist Kennet Andreasson.

"The connection between obligations and rights has become less and less clear," he added.

Some of the country's last conscripts received medals during an official ceremony at the royal palace on Wednesday.

The centre-right government decided last year to end military service, which on average had lasted about 11 months.

At the same time, it decided to loosen the country's traditionally strict neutrality to allow participation in more international military operations, like the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.

The Swedish military, which last year employed 34,000 people as well as 38,000 National Guard reserves, has in recent weeks been running a large recruitment campaign with television ads and large street billboards.

Last Updated (Friday, 02 July 2010 07:54)



#8 2011-09-03 20:15
I spend 10month of my life there. I wrecked 2 cars, played with explosives, and played with guns. And i hated 95% of the it.

your english makes no sense.. (about the 5 shots care to explain?) however i know the feeling you are describing about being in the army.. been there done that didnt like it also..
#7 2010-07-02 14:53
I think it is short sighted of Sweden to make this move, if history has shown us anything, it is that cir[censored]st ances change rapidly and we are still very close to Russia which has a history of vast instability.
#6 2010-07-02 14:10
I spend 10month of my life there. I wrecked 2 cars, played with explosives, and played with guns. And i hated 95% of the it.

anyway i don't think removing it was a smart move. we did the same thing between the WW1 & WW2 and well my grandfather guarded a big port with 2 other soldiers with 5(FIVE) shots each. when Denmark was invaded ..... 5 shots ....
#5 2010-07-02 07:47
It is easy for Sweden to shutdown their army, because they have such a lovely neighbor keeping the Russians away.
#4 2010-07-02 01:43
Big thing Lennart... My platoon carried live weapons pretty much the entire time. I wouldn't want my military service to be undone. It was a life experience.
#3 2010-07-01 21:31
I spend 15 months to learn to defend and serve my country. It made a man out of a boy and I am proud that I got the chance to go through that experience. Many weak individuals tried to “escape” their national duties, some did succeed and some did not. Thank you Sweden for letting me serve you.
#2 2010-07-01 21:06
Payed professional army is the only way to go for Sweden. But they need to hike the budget on military spending.
#1 2010-07-01 20:55
I spend one full year learning to kill people. I was just 19 years old. At one time I was posted outside the royal castle in Stockholm, armed with a loaded automatic carbine. Did I say I was only 19?

Now I guess my services are no longer needed. A 'thank you' note would have been nice, though.

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