Lithuania to reinstate army conscription amid Russia fears

24th February 2015, Comments 0 comments

Lithuania said Tuesday it would return to limited conscription later this year as concern mounts over Russian military exercises near NATO Baltic states.

"We must temporarily renew mandatory military service," President Dalia Grybauskaite told reporters.

"The current geopolitical environment requires us to enhance and accelerate army recruitment."

Speaking after an emergency meeting of the State Defence Council, Grybauskaite unveiled the plan for 3,500 men between 19 and 26 to be drafted for a nine-month period every year, starting this fall.

The parliament must still approve the move.

One of three formerly Soviet-ruled Baltic republics, Lithuania abolished conscription in favour of a professional army in 2008, four years after it joined the European Union and NATO.

Lithuania's top military general said conscription would help fill gaps in units and train extra reservists for the current armed forces of 8,000 professional soldiers.

"At this moment, we do not see any military threat," Major General Jonas Vytautas Zukas told reporters.

"But that does not mean that it could not emerge quickly. We see how fast the situation evolves in Ukraine."

Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and subsequent alleged meddling in the country's east has stoked NATO fears that Moscow could intervene in the Baltic states to test the Western alliance's collective defence.

The Soviet Union annexed the three countries during World War II. They won independence in 1991 and have had rocky ties with Moscow ever since.

© 2015 AFP

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