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EU nation urges UK to introduce conscription

The Latvian foreign minister says the UK should reinstate mandatory military service to deter Russia

Britain and other NATO allies should consider conscripting citizens into the military to counter the supposed threat from Russia, the Latvian foreign minister told The Telegraph in an interview published on Saturday.

Latvia re-introduced compulsory military service earlier this year, in response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, as Riga strives to increase the size of its “active and ready reserve.” The updated rules oblige all male Latvian citizens aged 18 to 27 to complete one year of service, including those living abroad.

When asked whether the UK and other countries should follow suit, Krisjanis Karins said: “We would strongly recommend this. We are developing and fleshing out a system of what we call a total defence involving all parts of civil society.”

The Latvian diplomat also urged London to raise its defence spending to 3% of gross domestic product, describing the move as “inevitable.”

NATO countries should consider a “total defence” model in which large numbers of citizen-soldiers could be potentially called up at short notice, according to the minister.

Latvia has borrowed elements from the Finnish conscription system, which “could be a very good model for many of us,” Karins said, adding that Finland has a small standing army, “but a very large, very well-trained” war-time reserve “so they can easily call up a 250,000 trained military”.

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UK should train ‘citizen army’ to fight Russia – general

In January, the UK Chief of the General Staff, Patrick Sanders, called for “training and equipping” civilians for a potential call-up in the event of a direct conflict with Russia. However, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak insisted that there are no plans to introduce conscription.

Britain’s army, navy, and air force had 184,865 active-duty personnel as of late 2023, the lowest figure since the end of the Napoleonic wars. The army has seen its headcount shrink from more than 100,000 in 2010 to 75,983 at the end of last year.

Latvia has been on the frontline of the West’s confrontation with Moscow along with Estonia and Lithuania since the launch of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. The former Soviet republic, which shares a 284-kilometer border with Russia, joined the EU and NATO in 2004, and abolished conscription in 2006. The Latvian armed forces have served in US-led overseas expeditions, including Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.

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March 17, 2024 at 02:48PM

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