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Conscription is to be introduced for all Latvian citizens between the ages of 18 and 27, the country’s Defense Ministry announced on Monday.
Over the next five years, all male citizens in this age bracket “will have to choose one of four types of military service: State Defense Service, National Guard, Platoon Commander’s University Course or alternative services to the ministry of interior, health or welfare,” the ministry said in a statement.
Female citizens in this age group will be offered “the same opportunities on a voluntary basis”, the ministry said.
Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said that “the Latvian population must realize that in order to survive, we simply need to increase the share of the population that has received military training and is ready to engage in combat. This should reduce the risk of Russia attacking Latvia at will.”
Pabriks added that “2014 allowed us to focus more on rearmament and better combat readiness of our armed forces units. These goals were successfully achieved.”
In 2014, Russia invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.
“However, the security implications of the Russian-Ukrainian war have led to many new challenges,” Pabriks said. “To overcome them, we must strengthen our combat capabilities and develop the army reserve.”
The Minister of Defense said: “It has become clear that we have exhausted the potential for National Guard voluntary service and professional service, while a further increase in the number of military personnel is associated with excessive risks.”
“That is why we must focus on increasing the number of Latvian residents able to join the defense forces in the event of a military conflict,” he added.
As part of the first phase of the project, the Latvian Ministry of Defense will offer voluntary military training to Latvian citizens between the ages of 18 and 27, starting in January 2023.
Enrollment will take place in two stages, in January and July.
The ministry estimates that in the first year, the State Defense Service will attract about 1,000 new soldiers (500 at each recruitment stage).
They will be required to serve for a year, including a month off.
New recruits will undergo a three-month basic training and a three-month specialty course, while the remaining months “will be devoted to integration into units and collective training”, the ministry said.
“All recruits will be socially protected. According to plans, each new soldier will receive a monthly salary of up to 400 euros, free food and accommodation in army barracks,” the ministry said.
Over the next five years, the ministry plans to increase the share of the combat-ready population in the National Armed Forces to 50,000 troops.
“Among them, 14,000 soldiers would form active duty units, while 16,000 would join the National Guard and 20,000 would form the reserve force,” the ministry said.