Conscription would make little sense, says Defense Ministry

While Estonia and Lithuania have compulsory military service, according to the Defense Ministry a similar move in Latvia would play into Russia's hands as it would require too much resources and come with a several gap before becoming effective, reported LETA on January 4.

The ministry said that large human and financial resources would be required for reinstatement of the compulsory military service and its further functioning. Moreover, a long time will be needed before the system becomes effective.

If Latvia were to return to compulsory military service, it would mean full dissolution of the professional army and stripping the Home Guard of its best people to provide officers and instructors for training the conscripts. In that case, the Latvian National Armed Forces would lose any combat capacity for at least 3-5 years.

A large number of personnel and new infrastructure across Latvia will be required for organization of the recruitment process, and there will be huge maintenance costs, even if the number of conscripts was limited.

For example, if 1,000 Latvian citizens were conscripted for a 12-month military service, the initial outlays would be €38.1 million for infrastructure, €9.87 million for guns and €7.72 million for other military gear in addition of the costs in the following years that will amount to tens of millions of euros every year. The estimated cost per professional military service soldier in the first year is €30,000 for individual military gear alone, and it is completely wrong to claim that the cost per conscript would be much lower, the Latvian Defense Ministry said.

The ministry said it had thoroughly analyzed the Russia-Georgia war in 2008 and Russia's aggression in Ukraine and one of the main conclusions was that in both cases there was a swift and professional incursion that could be stopped only by an effective and well-trained force.

"In the current situation, the return to compulsory military service in Latvia will greatly serve Russia's interests because the move would seriously weaken or even liquidate the professional army and the Home Guard both of which will lose financing and will have to cease ongoing development projects.

In view of the above-mentioned, we have to ask the question - in whose interests it will be to destroy a functioning national military defense system that has started recovering after the years of the budget cuts and is evolving into a real military force to replace it with conscripts or cannon fodder," the Latvian Defense Ministry said.

A signature drive is under way on the public initiative portal Manabalss.lv for reinstating compulsory military service in Latvia. At least 10,000 Latvian citizens have to sign the petition so that it could be submitted to the Latvian parliament to be considered as a collective legislative initiative.

This is not the first time there's talk of reintroducing compulsory military service in Latvia.

In early April 2016 Latvian parliament speaker Inara Murniece, talking at a joint meeting of two Baltic Assembly committees, said that both Estonia and Lithuania had compulsory military service therefore Latvia should consider making a similar move as well.

Latvia switched to a fully professional army on January 1, 2007.

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