January 29, 2009: Sweden has decided to freeze its defense budget at about five billion dollars a year, for the next five years. At the same time, it wants to raise the readiness of its active duty units for deployment overseas on peacekeeping missions. As a result, it will deactivate several infantry and tank units, but improve the readiness of the remaining 12,500 troops who are eligible for deployment. This includes eight infantry battalions.
Some 30 percent of the infantry units will be cut, along with half the 150 Leopard 2 tanks. With the Soviet Union gone (since 1991) and Russia much less of a threat, Sweden does not see the need to have as many tanks on active duty. Sweden has long maintained a "mobilization army" (like Israel and Switzerland), where most troops get their military training, then go to reserve units (where they receive refresher training for up to twenty years.) During the Cold War, the Swedes could mobilize about a million troops. Since the end of the Cold War, this has been reduced to 330,000, and will be cut a bit more under the new budget.
Military leaders are not happy with this, but the politicians, legislature and voters have spoken. The Swedes are still able to mobilize over 30,000 troops in a few hours, for any military emergency or natural disaster.