Gallant Swedes

World War II had its “gallant Finns” persevering in the face of aggression.

We have our gallant Swedes.

“Sweden Renews Financial Pressure on Armed Forces,” screams one headline. “Isn’t Sweden Neutral?” readers wonder. Oh, that’s Switzerland, but all of Scandinavia is essentially neutral — and gallant.

Yes, Sweden has a military, and it is remarkable that its challenges are not unlike those faced by U.S. military leaders, though its plight may be worse. It seems Sweden’s state-run National Financial Management Authority is determined to keep its nation’s armed forces as cost-efficient as possible. Although DoD might think it’s hobbled by oversight, the Swedes’ situation gives American gun-toters something to cheer about (so long as those financial types are not advising Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens — or the U.S. Air Force or the Navy for that matter.

Gen. Haken Syren, Sweden’s armed forces chief, has described his military’s on-going transformation as one of the “greatest military challenges” faced by his nation’s defense leaders. (Clearly he has been talking to Big Daddy of Defense Transformation, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld or to U.S. Army strat comm types.) Our guess is the Swedish military just has not been awash with challenge in its history. But we digress.

It’s a well-known refrains: According to Syren, Sweden’s leaders want to increase the requirements placed on its forces while continuing to slash budgets. He has noted the ambitious goals outlined in the 2004 “Strategy for Swedish Defense” are not attainable at current budget levels, and thus has stated it is becoming increasingly difficult to accommodate political ambitions. Sweden already has gone through its own version of base realignment and closure, reportedly closing a third of its installations. On the personnel side, the force has been slashed by 17 percent since 2004. At the same time, the Swedes are revamping their officer corps and moving to a more voluntary, if not completely voluntary force.

But relief might be on the way: Parliamentary elections are on the horizon. One Swedish political leader, possibly looking to woo voters, has stated “Sweden needs a strong defense.”

We will assume he has no ties to France. 

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