Neutralist Sweden set to boost military
Recent Soviet incursions into Swedish terrority have led neutralist Sweden to seriously debate beefing up its military forces. The debate came to a peak this week when Prime Minister Olof Palme won an important victory making it politically easier to upgrade defenses against intruding foreign submarines and aircraft.
Delegates to Mr. Palme's Social Democratic Party convention voted for a platform plank that clearly rejects ''unilateral Swedish disarmament'' and gives future Social Democratic governments discretion to adjust defense spending depending on the world situation.
With an election due next year, the political convention defeated resolutions calling for a firm commitment by Sweden to reduce military spending. These resolutions were supported by the party's youth, women's, and Christian organizations.
But military experts say that, having cleared political obstacles, Sweden faces some tough economic and technical problems in upgrading its antisubmarine and air defenses.
These two facets of the nation's military posture have been in the limelight since a Soviet jet invaded Swedish airspace last month, some three years after a Soviet sub ran aground near a Swedish base.
Sweden has quietly stepped up its patrols of coastal waters in what has been described as an almost unbroken series of antisub-marine exercises along the coast.
(On Tuesday, a Norwegian fishing boat netted a foreign sub eight nautical miles off Norway. See item, Page 2.)
One such exercise in the Stockholm archipelago detected what may have been a submarine. Naval spokesmen confirmed the incident but said details would not be available until October.
In August, two Swedish fighter jets failed to get to Gotland Island from their base in southwestern Sweden in time to intercept a Soviet fighter that flew over the island in a widely publicized incident. Sweden has filed its second strong protest to Moscow about the fighter incident, and Defense Minister Anders Thunborg said the Air Force had increased the number of fighter jets ready to reach Sweden's east coast or Gotland.
The emphasis on strengthening peacetime forces has at least some Swedish military experts worried that Sweden's Army, which can mobilize some 700,000 reservists in three days, may be neglected in the reallocation of resources forced by austere military budgets.
''We are hasty in peacetime to overemphasize antisubmarine forces,'' said Bo Hugemark, military historian at the Swedish Staff and War College.
Mr. Hugemark said that in a serious crisis or war situation, capabilities for territorial defense by land forces are more important. But he stressed that Sweden's Army was paying adequate attention to matters of mobilization and readiness.
Jonathan Alford, deputy director of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), said Sweden's efforts to upgrade its antisubmarine and air defenses were seen as wise.
''A land invasion of Sweden is the last of their worries,'' he declared.
Moreover, in any defense buildup, Sweden will face the effects of the record high US dollar irrespective of who wins the 1985 election.
''They have lost 20 to 25 percent in value they could buy for kronor against the dollar,'' said Heino Kopitz, a specialist in military economics who works as a consultant at the IISS.
Cautioning that he was speaking for himself and not the IISS, Mr. Kopitz said that Sweden would not be able to increase defense spending in real terms. It would have to continue to reallocate resources from its ground forces to the Navy and Air Force.
The Swedish Ministry of Defense has requested a 1.5 billion kronor, or 7 percent, increase in military spending for fiscal 1985-1986. The increase roughly matches the inflation rate in Sweden, although the government hopes to push down inflation to around 4 percent by late next year.
The record-high dollar strikes especially hard at Sweden's plans to modernize its Air Force by building a new combat plane, the Gripen, for the 1990s. Although the Swedish-designed aircraft will be built by Saab-Scania in Sweden, its engines and certain other key equipment must be purchased with dollars from the US.
The Gripen has been a constant target of criticism by the Swedish peace movement and some Social Democrats who are opposed to increased military spending. They claim the plane will make Sweden's Air Force even more dependent on the US.
With some 420 combat aircraft at full mobilization, Sweden's Air Force is one of the largest in Europe. It is considered to be ahead of many countries in its tactical and strategic doctrines.
For instance, an IISS expert pointed to recent Swedish exercises for spreading a wartime airfield along stretches of highway with mobile ground service facilities hidden in bunkers or forests and commented:
''This concept, the use of roads as runways, and the dispersal of aircraft, is the right way to think when you talk about modern limited warfare.''