VILNIUS. The State Defense Council, comprising of the Lithuanian president, prime minister, parliament speaker, defense minister and army chief decided yesterday that mandatory military service ought to be reintroduced in the tiny Baltic nation.
The measure needs to be approved by the Seimas (the Lithuanian Parliament) and if the measure passes, the first conscripts could be summoned as early as this September. Inside sources from the Lithuanian politics quoted by the local media say that the ruling party supports the idea and the measure is very likely to receive the Parliament’s approval.
One of the official motivations for this decision is that ever since Lithuania moved towards a professional army model, the army has been consistently under-staffed as not enough people volunteered for a career in the military.
President Dalia Grybauskaitė motivated her support for the measure as a reaction to the “new geopolitical circumstances” and mentioned that the measure is not permanent:
We must reinforce the country’s defence capacities. Under new geopolitical circumstances, the army must be properly prepared for the country’s armed defence even in times of peace. Today’s geopolitical situation requires that we strengthen and speed up the manning of our army. Therefore the State Defense Council has decided that it is necessary to temporarily, for five years, reintroduce compulsory military draft.
Military experts in the region have predicted that in the next two years the probability of Russian aggression against the Baltic countries will be very high and the Lithuanian Armed Forces Reserve is not even half of its actual need in terms of personnel. The same experts say that 3500 per year is almost 5 times more recruits the Lithuanian army gets through voluntary enrollment.
Under the plan, the Lithuanian military expects to recruit between 3000 and 3500 men between the ages of 19 and 26 (including 26) every year and subject them to 9 months of intensive military training. It is estimated that roughly 200,000 men that fit the criteria live in Lithuania, and if the measure will indeed be limited in time, this means not all of them will be subjected to this decision.
Governmental sources issued assurances that exemptions would apply to university students, single fathers, men with health issues or otherwise unsuitable for military service. The latter category also includes men who file an “exemption request” and the Commission finds their arguments compelling.
Other voices associated with the Lithuanian decision-makers claim that their estimates show that training and supporting conscripts would cost the state only half of what it takes to train professional forces of similar size, but no actual figures have been presented as of yet.
Men aged 27 or older will not be subjected to this measure. Women are also totally exempt from the obligation of fulfilling what President Dalia Grybauskaitė called “the duty and honor of every citizen”.
This measure is projected to create within its applicability period between 16 and 17 thousand military men which the Government claims would be a “solid army reserve” that would cover almost 90% of the demand.
Some members of the Lithuanian public are not that concerned, whilst others have started to make arrangements for emigration outside of the European Union. Trying to avoid this measure could result in a European Arrest Warrant issued against him which means he can be deported if caught in any of the 28 nations that comprise the EU.
Members of AVfM had different reactions to this story. Dean Esmay, editor-in-chief of the English-language main site cautioned about the issue of conscription being routinely overlooked when discussing men’s issues:
Those in the West who roll their eyes and say conscription is a non-issue are fools. They neither see that this is a reality that still affects countless millions of men around the world, nor that it could happen to men in any country. Everyday lies about equality of the sexes disappear when this happens.
William Andersson, the head of AVfM Sweden, on the other hand, was appreciative of the exemption of single fathers:
I can see that this may be the only possible way for Lithuania to maintain a defense, and I like that exceptions are made for single fathers. On the other hand, this also looks, to me at least, as a sacrifice of men’s lives for causes that are lost anyway. Suffice to say that I’m a bit conflicted about this.
Marian Atodiresei, editor-in-chief of AVfM Romania is skeptical about the results this measure would bring and is still looking for that equality under the law:
I’m highly skeptical of the State’s assertion that conscription is cheaper than training a professional force. Experiences in other nations, such us our own or Hungary tell a different story. But even if it were cheaper, that doesn’t mean it yields the same – or close enough – benefits. I can understand that Lithuania is in a complicated position, geopolitically speaking, but I’m not convinced that mandatory conscription is a good solution for them at this point. Anyway – I’m looking for that equality and I don’t see it. My mother was conscripted back in Communism and I’m sure this was the practice under the SSR Lithuania as well. Why not now?
It is yet unclear what will be the exact penalty for attempting to avoid the service.