Latvia brings back military conscription

Juris Kaža
5 min readApr 6

The Latvian parliament or Saeima on April 5 passed a law gradually reinstating military conscription in the Baltic republic 16 years after abandoning obligatory service in favor of professional volunteer armed forces in 2007.

The Law on the State Defense Service, adopted by a vote of 68 to 11 in the 100-member Saeima, foresees the first voluntary recruitment of young people into armed services this summer. The drafting of the law started last year after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Under the law male Latvian citizens will be subject to national defense service within one year after reaching the age of 18. Men who continue to receive education after the age of 18, except for those in higher education, will be subject to the national defense service within one year after graduating from an educational institution.

When it was first proposed last year, Artis Pabriks, Minister of Defense at the time, said that the purpose of conscription was Pabriks to boost the strength of the Latvian armed forces to around 50 000 active duty, ready reserve and National Guard troops, a level necessary for Latvia to defend itself side-by-side with a planned NATO brigade to be permanently stationed in the country.

Women to be exempt from conscription, may volunteer

The law says that women — from the age of 18 to the age of 27 — may voluntarily apply for military service but will not be subject to conscription. Women were excluded from the new law despite objections by the opposition social-democratic Progressivie (Progressives) who said military service should promote gender equality.

The first round of recruitment for the armed services will start on July 1 of this year on a voluntary basis, but from January 1, 2024, the military service will be mandatory, but only if voluntary applications do not fill the needed quota of soldiers. The remaining number will be conscripted from male citizens aged 18 and 19, with conscription notices sent by e-mail, regular post or delivered in person, according to a press release from the Ministry of Defense.

A Latvian professional soldier soon to be joined by conscripts. Photo: US Army via Wikimedia Commons

Under the law, military service is performed in one of the following ways: 11 months in the regular forces or National Guard unit of the National Armed Forces, five years in the…

Juris Kaža

A freelance journalist based in Riga, Latvia who has covered the country and region for 20 years. Speak native Latvian and English, fluent Swedish and German.