Latvian President Egils Levits said Monday that Latvia might raise its military spending and introduce compulsory military service for its citizens regardless of their gender in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said last week that the Baltic nation will reinstate compulsory military service for men. Latvia previously had a draft but scrapped the policy in the mid-2000s. Levits said he wants the draft to apply to both men and women.
“I think we should have equality in this respect and I support this idea for all Latvian citizens of specific age … this should be done independently of their sex,” Levits told Reuters.
Several European nations still practice compulsory military service, including Latvia’s fellow Baltic states of Lithuania and Estonia. Lithuania restarted mandatory conscription in 2015 for all men aged 19-26, who are picked randomly. About 2% of Lithuanian men in the age bracket are selected for military service for a period of nine months.
Levits also said Latvia will aim to increase military spending from about 2% of its gross domestic product (GDP) to 2.5%. Lithuania has said it will raise military spending to 3% as NATO countries in the region are further militarizing in response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
At the recent NATO summit in Madrid, the Baltic nations were promised larger troop contingents to be stationed in each country. Levits said that Latvia is already planning to spend on expanding military facilities to house more NATO troops.