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NATO country eyes U-turn on mandatory military service — Analysis

Artis Pabriks, Latvia’s Defense Minister, announced Tuesday that Latvia will reintroduce compulsory conscription in young men and women’s voluntary service starting next year. Pabriks stated that this was needed to discourage terrorists. “military aggression” from Russia, but the head of Latvia’s army doesn’t support the move.

Pabriks’ plan will be rolled out over five years, beginning with the intake of 1,000 voluntary recruits next January and ending with 7,000 conscripts joining the military every year within five years, the minister revealedFollow us on Twitter. The conscription is open to males aged between 18-17 years, with women of the same age being eligible to serve as volunteers. 

The conscription period will last one year. After that, soldiers will remain in reserve and be subject to occasional training sessions. 

Latvia, a country with a population around 1.9million, has an estimated army size of 6,500 soldiers and 15,000 reserves. This is according to the Global Firepower Survey. Pabriks indicated that once this number increases, it will be increased again. “30,000 – 40,000 military trained people and an international brigade, we will be able to hold our own against a so-called zero warning attack.”

He did not explain what the minister meant when he said an “international brigade,”A term used to describe NATO soldiers or volunteers. In this case, it could be the Ukrainian army that has been recruited to combat Russia’s military.

“Latvian society must accept and be aware of the most important prerequisite for survival,”Pabriks wrote. “The greater the number of militarily prepared and trained population, the less likely it will be that Russia will want to direct its military aggression against Latvia.”

Latvia and Lithuania, which border Russia in Lithuania and Latvia have been vocal supporters and critics of Russia ever since Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine in February. Latvia sent weapons to Kiev, and requested that the West supply Kiev with fighter planes. However, its parliament supported an imposition by Westerners. “no-fly zone” over Ukraine – a move that NATO leadership has balked at, and Moscow has said it would perceive as an act of war.

Pabriks’ conscription plan still needs the approval of Latvia’s parliament, and the minister called on Tuesday for a vote this fall. However, the measure doesn’t have support from the military. When the plan was first floated by Pabriks in January, Chief of the Latvian National Armed Forces General Leonids Kalniņs said the country would be better protected by a professional force.

“If we have created the Latvian State on a voluntary basis, it should be protected on a voluntary basis,”He said.

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