No plans for return of military conscription

Latvia has no plans to follow southern neighbor Lithuania by moving to reintroduce compulsory military conscription, senior officials said Wednesday.

Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma and Defense Minister Raimonds Vejonis both told journalists Latvia would stick to its commitment to a professional army backed up by volunteer reserve forces.

"I believe this issue is not on the agenda today," Straujuma said.

Straujuma voiced support for Latvia's professional armed forces, saying that it is up to "each country to decide whether to resume conscription". Latvia is putting the emphasis on reinforcing its National Guard, and many young people are joining the Young Guard, the cadet force, the premier indicated.

Straujuma said that neither Latvia, nor the Baltic states as a whole are facing a direct threat of military invasion.

"We are in NATO, which is forming rapid response units, so I do not think there will be a need for young people there. In my opinion, we must concentrate on strengthening our borders," the Latvian prime minister said, adding that she intended to inspect Latvia's eastern border this Friday.

Funding for the strengthening of Latvia's borders will be allocated after the ministers of defense and interior submit cost estimates to the government, Straujuma said.

"What we need is modern equipment rather than conscription. This is my opinion," the prime minister said.

"Each country can choose its own path," Defense Minister Vejonis said, commenting Lithuania's plan to resume conscription for the next five years.

"There is a question about the use of reserve soldiers on the agenda, and of course also about reinforcing the Home Guard," Vejonis said. 

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said on Tuesday that Lithuania plans to resume conscription in the fall in the wake of growing threat from Russia.

"We must restore the mandatory military service temporarily over the period of the next five years," the president told journalists.

The Lithuanian State Defense Council suggests ordering around 3,500 young men every year to undergo a nine-month-long training regime. The plan still needs the Lithuanian parliament's approval.

Conscription was ended in Lithuania in 2008 and in Latvia in 2006.

A recent poll of attitudes to the draft in Latvia concluded  that only 24% of people were in favor of its return.

Nevertheless, the Defense Ministry has floated plans to increase the number of full time soldiers in Latvia's armed forces by 2,000 over the next three years.

The Ministry also pointed out on its Twitter feed that the National Guard will also be offering more places to be filled in coming months.

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