The impact of NATO membership on Swedish conscription

Sweden reintroduced a system of partial conscription (Swedish: värnplikt) for both men and women in 2017, after being dormant since 2010. In July 2023 the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS) published an interim briefing on how conscription is likely to be impacted by NATO membership. It was one of a series of briefing papers being prepared on the impact of NATO membership on Swedish security. The briefing papers can be found here: (all in Swedish), and are part of a larger report that will be launched by the SPAS in December 2023.

Main findings

The SPAS kindly provided NATO Watch with an English language translation of the main findings of the briefing on conscription:

Conscripts can be affected by NATO membership and be sent abroad for three reasons:

1. To participate in exercises and training within the framework of military cooperation;

2. To participate in NATO troop deployments for the purpose of guarding NATO territory in peacetime and thus be a part of NATO's deterrence strategy; and

3. To fight for NATO in a war situation.

There are uncertainties as to whether it is possible to force people to participate in military operations abroad on behalf of NATO within the current legislation.

The fact that those who have already enlisted or been deployed have not been able to consider the risk of being sent abroad on behalf of NATO at the time of enlistment/conscription raises questions about the democratic basis and transparency of the process.

There is a need for further debate and discussion regarding what it would mean for conscripts to be sent abroad within NATO.