Latvia to reinstate compulsory military service as Russia tensions rise

Latvia is to reinstate compulsory military service amid growing tension with Russia in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The current military system of Latvia has reached its limit. Meanwhile, we have no reason to think that Russia will change its behaviour,” the Latvian defence minister, Artis Pabriks, told reporters on Tuesday.

Latvia had scrapped mandatory service a few years after joining the Nato military alliance. Since 2007, the EU member’s military has consisted of career soldiers along with national guard volunteers who serve in the infantry part-time at weekends.

The country of fewer than 2 million people, which borders Belarus and Russia, has only 7,500 active-duty soldiers and national guard members, backed by 1,500 Nato troops.

Pabriks said the mandatory military service requirement would apply only 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 taken after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. “This is the right thing – to train more reservists for our army and for overall Nato strength, which is still critically lacking in the northern European and Baltic region,” he said.

Pabriks also announced plans to build another military base near the south-eastern city of Jēkabpils, located closer to the Russian border than its existing base at Ādaži.

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