"This year, recruitment rates have fallen sharply. We've recruited 98 troops this year. Compared to previous years, they were around 300 during this period. There is a demographic pit, perhaps parents motivate young people less to get involved. The remuneration is also a factor,” said Kalniņš.
He said that in Latvia, for several years, comprehensive State protection has been introduced, with the aim of introducing military life to the public as much as possible and preparing for self-defense. In this respect, the Ministry of Defense's offer for the gradual introduction of a mandatory national defence service is “rather good.”
According to Kalniņš, such a service would not only help to prepare the society for self-defense, military and leadership, but could also contribute to the recruitment of full-time NBS soldiers.
The shortages of full-time soldiers in the Armed Forces are currently quite large, added Kalniņš.
“We [NBS] cannot compete with the size of civil-sector remuneration. At the moment, the first year's soldier gets €1,000-1,050 in hand, which comes from pay, food and living compensation," said Kalniņš.
He also touched on the proposed reintroduction of national military service, about which he has in the past expressed reservations. Investments of up to 800 million euros would be needed to make it happen, he estimated.
"I have participated in several meetings where I have expressed my opinion. I still have not changed my opinion that the armed forces of Latvia should be recruited on a voluntary basis," noted Kalniņš, at the same time emphasizing that the aim of the new initiative is to train the civil part of society more widely, so that it is more prepared militarily.