Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks on Tuesday said the Baltic state will reinstate compulsory military service following growing tension with neighboring Russia amid Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
“The current military system of Latvia has reached its limit. Meanwhile, we have no reason to think that Russia will change its behavior,” Pabriks told reporters.
Latvia had scrapped mandatory service a few years after joining the NATO defense 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 on weekends.
The country of under two million people, which borders both Belarus and Russia, currently only has 7,500 active duty soldiers and National Guard members, backed by 1,500 NATO troops.
Pabriks said the mandatory military service will apply to men and enter into effect next year, with several options available for fulfilling the requirement.
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 told AFP.
Pabriks also announced plans to build another military base near the southeastern city of Jekabpils, located closer to the Russian border than the existing Adazi base.