Lithuania is considering reintroducing limited conscription this year. The presidential plan, which must be confirmed by the legislature, comes as concern mounts over Russia’s military exercises near NATO Baltic states.
Lithuania plans to renew military conscription for the first time since 2008, the president's office announced on Tuesday, after growing worries over Russia's activities in the Baltics. The conscription renewal would last five years, according to the president's office. Lithuania's parliament still needs to approve the plan.
"We must temporarily renew mandatory military service," President Dalia Grybauskaite told reporters on Tuesday. "The current geopolitical environment requires us to enhance and accelerate army recruitment," she added.
Along with Baltic neighbors Latvia and Estonia, Lithuania spent over four decades of the 20th century incorporated into the Soviet Union, and upon the country's independence in 1991, officials quickly sought to join the NATO alliance and the European Union.
Now, Lithuanians have again grown increasingly worried about Russia, not least because of their proximity to the exclave of Kaliningrad. In December, Moscow ordered a military drill in Kaliningrad that featured 9,000 soldiers and more than 55 naval vessels.
"The State Defense Council, taking into account the geopolitical situation and threats to the state's security, decided that the country's defense capabilities need to be strengthened further," the president's office announced in a statement Tuesday.
Some analysts have warned that Moscow could follow on from its alleged meddling in Ukraine's civil war to foment instability in the Baltics, whether by agitating Russian-speaking minorities, effecting hostile energy policies or engaging in cyberwarfare - challenging NATO's ability to defend its smallest members.
On Monday, Germany's Defense Ministry announced that the country could sell Boxer tanks to Lithuania.
mkg/mg (Reuters, AFP)