De Facto

Latvija Ukrainai nosūtījusi militārās preces jau 370 miljonu vērtībā

De Facto

(Zīmju valodā). DeFacto. Militārā dienesta plāni. Latvijas palīdzība Ukrainai

Militārajā dienestā iesaucamo skaita plāni krasi sarukuši

LTV's De Facto: Plans to double army size might have been too ambitious

Take note – story published 1 year ago

Russia's invasion of Ukraine led Latvia to reassess its military capabilities. The government in September backed a Defense Ministry plan to double personnel in the structures of the National Armed Forces in five years. Whether it will be done, it is not known at this time, and the reintroduction of mandatory defense service (VAD) will not recruit as many as initially planned, the De Facto broadcast of Latvian Television reported on February 19.

One of Latvia's defense downfalls is the small number of reserve forces. The so-called active reserve, which could be mobilized quickly, has just six thousand people. In September, the government supported a report by the Ministry of Defense, which recommended that the number of personnel in the armed forces be doubled to 51 thousand, including the number of reserves to 20 thousand. In order to do this, it was planned to train a thousand people this year, two and a half thousand next year, and up to 7,500 in 2028.

However, after the Saeima elections and a lengthy government formation process, momentum appears to have been lost. It was previously expected that the first voluntary draft would take place in January, but the Saeima has not yet approved the applicable law. The draft law was sharply criticized and the target for the number to be called into service has also been too ambitious, indicate the deputies of the committee responsible.

“After the elections, the Ministry of Defense, while discussing this draft law in the previous Saeima, but already after the elections, admitted that these objectives were inappropriate,” Ainārs Latkovskis, head of the New Unity faction, said.

On the other hand, Chairman of the Defense, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee Raimonds Bergmanis (United List) explained to the broadcast: “Concerns were confirmed about the quality of this law and what was submitted. In fact, we also had six committee meetings for the second reading."

It is clear now that only volunteers will be able to start their national service this year. The maximum number will be 300.

“Why is there such a number of trainees right now? So that we do not lose the fighting power of our professional units right now. From where will we take those instructors who train these [recruits]?” Bergmanis said.

The State Secretary of the Ministry of Defense, Jānis Garisons, said the current infrastructure of the armed forces does not allow more than 300 conscripts to be accommodated. How realistic it is now to double the army's size within five years, Garisons did not answer exactly, as there are no specific objectives yet for how many recruits should be trained each year.

Nor are there any major investments in setting up the service this year.

Instead of the EUR 87 million previously estimated, the Ministry of Defense now asks for only three million in the budget – for wages and catering for volunteers: “Even if you give them EUR 87 million, we are not likely to be able to spend it, because concluding additional contracts requires time, and on the other hand, of course, delivering them will take longer still.”

Both the Ministry and Committee members also said that the main thing is for the service to be high-quality, even if the number of conscripts is not large at first.

Ainars Latkovskis said: “There is currently no direct threat from Russia [to Latvia], because it is employed in its war in Ukraine, which it has launched. Consequently, we still have time. It's not a lot. But for the national defense service to become popular among young people, as it is in Finland or Estonia, it is important for us to start with a very high-quality service.”

Meanwhile, former Defense Minister Artis Pabriks denies that the original plan was unrealistic and hurried. At the same time, he points out that it is normal to change plans as a result of the discussions.

In order to be able to introduce the mandatory service more quickly, the Ministry of Defense is now preparing new proposals for the final reading of the law in the Saeima, which would allow national service to be passed through other structures of the Ministry of Defense.

The Legal Office of the Saeima has stated that people with genuine religious or moral objections to regular military service should be able to replace military service with a suitable alternative. However, an early plan to allow serving in civilian spheres such as, health or social care institutions has been abandoned for the time being as too complicated.

The Minister of the Interior, Māris Kučinskis, is positive about the idea in principle and states that the ministry will work to ensure that conscripts can also be employed in the State Fire and Rescue Service in the future.

"It's no secret that there are many vacancies in the State Fire and Rescue Service, especially in Riga. [...] We need to solve some internal processes and improve the training programs. I suppose, that it will take a year," Kučinskis said.

The Ministry of Defense is now preparing new proposals for the final reading of the law in the Saeima, which would allow service to pass in military warehouses, in the maintenance of army real estate, at the Latvian War Museum or the Geospatial Information Agency.

Civil service will only be available to those who can prove their views to a special Control Commission. "This commission will be made up of experts who actually work with these issues, who can also say whether this person has become a pacifist since receiving the summons, or whether he has been one all his life," said Jānis Eglīts, parliamentary secretary of the Ministry of Defense.

Financially, civil service will be even less profitable for young people than military service. It is planned that the compensation will be the same 300 euros per month, but in the civil service, you will have to find a place to live on your own, unless you are lucky enough to live close to the place of service, and you will also have to provide your own food.

On the other hand, those conscripted into military service will live in barracks and will be fed with state money, and those who volunteer for military service will receive double compensation - 600 euros per month, slightly less than the 620 euros per month minimum wage in the civil sector. 


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