Latvia must reinstate military service amid mounting tensions with Russia following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Latvia’s current military system has reached its limit. Meanwhile, we have no reason to believe that Russia will change its behavior,” Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks told reporters on Tuesday.
Latvia had scrapped compulsory service a few years after joining NATO’s military alliance. Since 2007, the EU member’s army has been made up of professional soldiers and volunteers from the National Guard who serve part-time with the infantry on weekends.
Bordering Belarus and Russia, the country of less than 2 million inhabitants has only 7,500 active-duty soldiers and members of the National Guard, supported by 1,500 NATO troops.
Pabriks said compulsory military service would only apply to men and would come into effect next year, with several options available.
Gatis Priede, a National Guard soldier, called the move “the best news” and said the decision should have been made after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. “This is the right choice – to train more reservists for our army and for the overall NATO strength, which is still sorely lacking in the Northern European and Baltic region,” he said.
Pabriks also announced plans to build another military base near the southeastern town of Jēkabpils, which is closer to the Russian border than the existing base in Ādaži.