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Latvia and Estonia propose to return conscription to NATO members

Latvia and Estonia propose to return conscription to NATO members Latvian President Edgars Rinkēvičs (Photo: Getty Images)

Two presidents of Baltic countries have urged other European nations to do more to prepare for a possible armed confrontation with Russia. Specifically, they are considering all options, from conscription and a special defense tax to a sharp increase in military spending, according to the Financial Times.

Latvian President Edgars Rinkēvičs stated that European countries need to return to the "level of spending during the Cold War" and discuss reintroducing compulsory military service to increase the size of defense forces.

"There is a need for serious discussion about conscription," Rinkēvičs said.

In recent months, Western officials have repeatedly warned that Moscow may undermine the provisions of the mutual defense clause of the military alliance by carrying out hybrid or military attacks on Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania – the three Baltic countries on NATO's eastern flank – in the coming years, following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Levits acknowledged that military leaders prefer entirely professional armed forces, and mandatory service may prove unpopular. However, he said that the armed troops across Europe are struggling with recruitment, and conscription would help create more combat-ready reserve forces to deter Russia.

"Nobody wants to fight. "But the problem is nobody wants to be invaded as well. And nobody wants to see Ukraine happening here," Rinkēvičs said.

For his part, Estonian President Alar Karis suggested considering the possibility of introducing a special tax to finance military procurements, and Europe should aim to match the United States in defense spending.

Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have rapidly increased their defense spending in recent years after repeatedly warning the rest of the West about Russian aggression over the past two decades. All three countries spend more on defense than the NATO benchmark of 2% of gross domestic product and aim to reach 3%.

NATO prepares for escalation

Earlier, the German agency Bild published a scenario for military exercises in Germany, during which German armed forces are preparing for a hybrid attack by Russia on NATO's eastern flaNATO's particular, NATO Military Committee Chairman Admiral Rob Bauer stated that the alliance needs transformation. The West must prepare for an era where anything can happen at any time, including the start of a war.

French President Emmanuel Macron warned of the risk of a Russian attack in the coming years, stating that European leaders must be prepared for such a scenario.

And Polish President Andrzej Duda stated that Russia could soon restore its military potential and attack NATO countries as early as 2026.