EU nation reinstates compulsory military service amid Russia war fears spark

'We cannot give in to bullying' from Russia says Latvia deputy

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As a neighbouring country to Russia with only 7,500 active-duty soldiers, Latvian Defence Minister Artis Pabriks announced the reinstatement of military service on Tuesday night. It is thought that voluntary conscription will begin from January 1 2023 and from then on there will be conscription two times a year.

Each conscription period is aiming to conscript 500 people each time though it has not been decided on how it will be introduced.

During the conscription periods, Latvians will be able to choose the type of service they enter out of the national defence service, National Guard, conducts the commander’s course and the university or alternative service such as civil defence.

It is thought that mandatory conscription will apply to men between 18 and 27 and will involve 11-month service with one month holiday.

Women will have the choice to apply for service voluntarily.

Mr Pabriks told the press: “The current military system of Latvia has reached its limit.

“Meanwhile we have no reason to think that Russia will change its behaviour.”

Following its membership to NATO, Latvia suspended mandatory service a few years later and its military is made up of career soldiers and part-time National Guard volunteers.

Journalist Kevin Rothrock tweeted: “Latvia, a nation with less than two million people (and that number is failing), will reinstate the draft in light of Russian aggression against Ukraine.

“It currently has just 7,500 active-duty soldiers/National Guardsmen.”

This is backed by 1,500 NATO troops.

Mr Pabriks hopes that the change will double the number of military trained citizens in the country within five years to around 40 to 50,000 inhabitants.

The defence minister said: “This is the number with which we can repel any attack that is not planned long in advance.”

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Gatis Priede, a National Guard soldier, has welcomed the announcement as “the best news” saying the statement should have been made in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

He said: “This is the right thing – to train more reservists for our army and for overall NATO strength, which is still critically lacking in northern European and Baltic region.”

The defence minister has also announced plans to construct a new military base near Jekabpils, which is closer to the border with Russia than the military base in Adazi.

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