World Bulletin/News Desk
While Swedish citizens enjoy a high standard of living and efficient national social welfare systems, they could face demands to increase spending on the military following widespread media coverage of allegations a Russian submarine may be in waters off the Stockholm archipelago, an expert says.
Many critics have questioned the veracity and timing of speculation a Russian submarine could be hiding in Swedish territorial waters at a time of heightened global military tensions under the US-led "war on terror", and also point out it is common knowledge that most developed nations operate fleets of military submarines around the world.
But, in the wake of the allegations, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has raised the prospect of taxpayers increasing military spending, which currently accounts for one percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product, a modest ratio of national income compared to its European neighbors.
Löfven said during a visit to the Estonian capital of Tallinn on Tuesday: "We agree on a broad basis between many parties in Sweden in the Swedish parliament that we need to increase our capacity, meaning that we need to put more resources into defense."
According to the Swedish government, the 2014 budget for defense expenditure is 9 billion kronor ($1.24 billion).
In contrast, neighbor Norway has an annual military budget of $6.8 billion, according to the Norwegian government, and Finland $3.5 billion for 2014, according to the European Defense Agency.
Sweden, which is not a member of the NATO military alliance of 28 states across Europe and North America, has traditionally been neutral in its foreign policy and recently announced it would become the first EU member country to recognize the state of Palestine.
Although it is a partner of NATO and has collaborated with the alliance in, for example, Afghanistan, the Scandinavian country does not have full membership because its policy of remaining neutral in any potential war.
However, Ulf Bjereld, Professor in political science at Sweden's University of Gothenburg, told Anadolu Agency that Swedish opinion could shift to a more NATO-friendly position if people came to believe the mysterious submarine allegedly floating in Swedish territorial waters was a proven act of Russian aggression.
''Developments in the event could lead to increased defense expenses and a build-up of the defense forces,'' Bjereld said.
The Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS), Scandinavia’s largest peace organization, has warned that a military build-up would not improve security in Sweden.
Anna Ek, Chairman of SPAS, told the Swedish public broadcaster SVT on Tuesday: "If we respond with military means, then we will further shift the language of power in that direction, which would be incredibly unfortunate, both for our own safety and security in the Baltic Sea area."
The Russian merchant ship, NS Concord, was reported to have been spotted floating in international waters right outside Stockholm on Wednesday last week, and a Swedish signal intelligence official was reported to have detected an encrypted conversation in Russian the following day.
Swedish daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reported that a damaged or missing Russian submarine could be in the archipelago after the encrypted signals were allegedly sent to Russia from its location.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom described the reports as "speculations" while the Russian Defense Ministry denied the allegations and said none of its military vessels were damaged.
Wallstrom said ahead of a EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg on Monday: ''We have no confirmation of anything, so now I leave it to the armed forces to follow up."
Russian jets violated Swedish and Finnish airspace in late August and September, which prompted the Swedish government to request a report from the armed forces.
A Soviet navy submarine ran aground in the coast of south Sweden in 1981 while a Swedish naval exercise was taking place.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 23 Ekim 2014, 13:30