Latvia will introduce mandatory military conscription for young men over the next five years, as the country seeks to deter a possible Russian attack, the Latvian Defense Ministry said Monday.
All male Latvians ages 18 to 27 would have to join one of four types of military service — the State Defense Service, National Guard, Section Commander University Course or an “alternative” service with a government ministry — for one year. Women in that age group would not have to serve but could volunteer.
The move came in direct response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said in a news release. He said the security implications “have led to numerous new challenges” for the small Baltic nation, which shares a border with Russia. “To overcome them, we need to boost our combat capabilities and develop army reserve,” Pabriks added.
The minister said he would submit a proposal to the Latvian Cabinet for a “gradual shift to State Defense Service.” In the first phase, beginning in January, young Latvians would be offered voluntary military training. The government expects to attract about 1,000 new soldiers for one year of service that will entail basic military training, a specialty course and a “six-month unit-level integration program focused on specific tasks and general exercise.” The recruits would be paid up to about $400 a month while being fed and housed in army barracks.
Over time, the country hopes to increase the share of combat-ready Latvians to 50,000, according to the release. “Of these, 14,000 troops would form active service units, while 16,000 would join National Guard and 20,000 would form the reserve force,” it said.
Latvians “must realize that to survive we simply must increase the share of population that has received military training and is ready to engage in combat,” Pabriks said. “This should reduce the risk of Russia attacking Latvia at will.”