Latvia to establish new military base, reinstate conscription

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Latvia's planned new military base.
Latvia's planned new military base. Source: LSM/Latvian Ministry of Defense

Latvia plans to establish a new international military base between the southern regions of Aizkraukle and Jekabpils, Latvian Minister of Defense Artis Pabriks said at a press conference on Tuesday. Estonia's southern neighbor will also be reinstating military conscription.

Located fairly close to the border with Lithuania, most of the property where the military base is planned to be established currently belongs to Latvia's State Forests (LVM), LETA reported via Latvian public broadcaster LSM.

Last week's NATO summit in Madrid ended with a commitment to significantly increase NATO deployments to the Baltics due to the increased threat posed by Russia.

The Canadian-led NATO Battlegroup Latvia currently consists of nearly 2,000 troops, but the new commitment is for combat-ready groups of brigade size, i.e. 3,000-5,000 troops.

At present, NATO forces are based at Camp Adazi, located near the capital city of Riga, but an increase in the number of troops will also require suitable infrastructure, services, support staff and social amenities as well. Establishing all of the above at a brand new site will be a major undertaking, LSM writes.

Pabriks likewise announced plans to reintroduce conscription, or national military service, for males in Latvia starting in 2023 — initially on a voluntary basis, then transitioning to compulsory. The decision comes despite reservations regarding the matter expressed by the chief of the Latvian National Armed Forces earlier this year.

According to information provided to the media by the Ministry of Defense, conscription in Latvia will be gradually reintroduced over the course of five years, with the first, voluntary phase to begin on January 1, 2023.

Recruitment is slated to take place semiannually — on January 1 and July 1. Following a five-year transition period, conscription will be compulsory for  all men aged 18-27.

Service can be deferred by those continuing their studies until after graduation.

Conscription will last for a period of 12 months, one of which will be vacation time. Under current plans, conscripts will receive €400 per month — below the current Latvian national minimum wage of €500 — plus travel expenses.

Women will be able to sign up for conscription on a volunteer basis. Only citizens of Latvia meeting minimum health requirements will be admitted to conscript service.

Conscription in neighboring countries

Latvia abolished compulsory conscription in 2007, switching in full to a professional military service backed by a National Guard militia. Lithuania abolished compulsory conscription in 2008, and reinstated it in 2016. Sweden had likewise deactivated peacetime conscription between 2010 and 2017.

Following the regaining of its independence in August 1991, Estonia established compulsory conscription late that same year. Conscription is compulsory in Finland as well.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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