Polish and Estonian defence chiefs hail Lithuania’s move to reintroduce conscription

Riho Terras

“In military terms, I think it is a very good decision, my opinion is very positive, if I can give my opinion,” Poland‘s Chief of Defence General Mieczyslaw Gocul told Vilnius journalists on Thursday.

Just like Lithuania, Poland gave up the conscription system last decade and does not plan on bringing it back. However, in Gocul’s words, the country launched more active preparations of the army reserve.

If the parliament approves, Lithuania intends to draft the first shift of recruits this autumn. About 3,000-3,500 young men between ages of 19 and 26 should be drafted every year.

About the same number of conscripts are annually added to the Armed Forces of Estonia, which, unlike many NATO member-states, did not shift to a fully professional army.

In an interview to BNS, Estonia’s Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Riho Terras described the Lithuanian plans as “an absolutely necessary move, as we have found in Estonia several years ago already that the number of people who would want to work as military professionals is limited in every society”.

“For a small nation it is the only way to put together a sufficient amount of troops,” the Estonian general said in a telephone interview on Thursday.

In his words, about half of young people between ages of 18 and 28 join the army in Estonia, training lasts 8-11 months, with university students allowed to serve during studies or after their graduate education.

The Estonian chief of defence said political parties and the society support the system, and, most importantly, an example is set by famous people – his son and the Estonian president’s son did the mandatory service and are now in reserve.

In Terras’ words, Estonians who have completed military service are better rated by business companies, as the military improves their leadership skills that are difficult to get elsewhere.

Asked about his opinion of the Russian threats, the general said Moscow would take an opportunity, however, is still not capable of challenging NATO.

“Russia has proven itself of being capable and willing to use conventional military force in order to achieve political objectives. So we need to be very careful and look at the situation all the time very carefully. But I don’t see an imminent threat right now. Since the Russian leadership has declared itself in a permanent state of war, it will use every window of opportunity, since we are members of NATO, I think that Russia is not ready yet to take it up with NATO,” said the Estonian chief of defence.

Estonia’s Armed Forces include about 3,000 professional troops, as compared with 8,000 in Lithuania and 90,000 in Poland.

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