Britain should consider Swedish-style military conscription, former MI6 chief says

5 April 2024, 06:37

The UK has previously been warned conscription may be necessary in the event of all-our war breaking out
The UK has previously been warned conscription may be necessary in the event of all-our war breaking out. Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Britain should consider adopting a Swedish-style military conscription system, former MI6 chief Sir Alex Younger has said.

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Sir Alex, who ran MI6 between 2014 and 2020, has claimed the UK needs a “wake-up call” with regards to the current state of the army.

Sweden has adopted a selective military conscription system. This means all 18-year-olds fill out an enlistment form, though only some are called up to carry out training.

This was introduced after Russia invaded Crimea in 2014. The Scandinavian nation also joined NATO in February of this year.

Britain's Army is 'too small', the UK has been warned
Britain's Army is 'too small', the UK has been warned. Picture: Getty

“Ultimately, in extremis, I think we’d be looking at something like the model I understand exists in places like Sweden, where the government theoretically has the power to compel people to give their service one way or another but doesn’t exercise it except in areas where it’s really needed,” Sir Alex told the Today podcast.

“You’ll notice on that list is not everyone being called up and going to the drafting station, I think that’s extremely unlikely.”

Read More: UK should consider conscription and introduce national service to deter Russian threat, Nato ally says

Read More: British military drawing up plans for 500,000-strong 'citizen army' as top general warns UK 'stumbling into war'

It comes just weeks after a NATO ally urged Britain to consider adopting a Finnish conscription model to deter aggression from Vladimir Putin.

Krisjanis Karins, Latvia’s foreign minister and former prime minister, said that a ‘total defence’ model was needed in Nato countries to defend against any Russian aggression.

Army chief General Sir Patrick Sanders
Army chief General Sir Patrick Sanders. Picture: Alamy

He pointed out that Latvia, which shares a 133-mile border with Russia, reintroduced conscription after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Under the county’s conscription model, all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 17 must complete an 11-month term in the national service.

Asked if other Nato countries should consider the Latvian model, he told The Telegraph: “We would strongly recommend this. We are developing and fleshing out a system of what we call a total defence involving all parts of civil society.”

The current head of the British Army General Sir Patrick Sanders warn the Government earlier this year of the need to "mobilise" the public if the UK goes to war with Russia.

Sir Patrick wants British men and women to be prepared to fight if Nato goes to war with Russia, who have gained the upper hand in its invasion of Ukraine.

It followed a warning by a senior Nato official that the West faces all-out war with Russia within 20 years.

“We need an army designed to expand rapidly to enable the first echelon, resource the second echelon, and train and equip the citizen army that must follow," Sir Patrick said in January.

He went on: “We cannot afford to make the same mistake today.”“We will not be immune and as the pre-war generation we must similarly prepare — and that is a whole-of-nation undertaking.

“Ukraine brutally illustrates that regular armies start wars; citizen armies win them. But we’ve been here before, and workforce alone does not create capability.”

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