- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 16, 2017

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) - Sweden’s defense minister said Wednesday that lawmakers, including some from two center-right opposition parties, have agreed to boost the Swedish defense budget with an annual extra 2.7 billion kronor ($334 million) over the next two years.

Peter Hultqvist of the Social Democratic Party says it’s “an important signal” at a time” where we see increased activity in our vicinity.” There has been growing military activity in the Baltic Sea region, including by Russian units.

The money will be used to increase the number of troops, improve training, purchase equipment and maintain old equipment, Hultqvist said.

The deal was made by the minority government - made up of Prime Minister Stefan Lofven’s Social Democrats and the Green Party - plus the opposition Moderate and Center parties.

A formal vote in the 349-member Parliament where the governing coalition has 138 seats is expected after the overall budget for 2018 is presented in September.

In September, Sweden stationed permanent troops on the Baltic Sea island of Gotland. In March, it reintroduced a military draft for both men and women.

The independent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says non-NATO member Sweden’s defense spending in 2016 - totaling 48.5 billion kronor ($6 billion) - was at 1 percent of its gross domestic product. Like Finland, which shares a border with Russia, Sweden has ruled out becoming a member of the alliance.

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