WARSAW — Eastern European countries are increasingly moving to restore conscription as a result of their rising concern over Russia's military activities in the region.

Most recently, Lithuania unveiled plans to reinstate conscription later this year in response to Moscow's intervention in Ukraine. The Lithuanian Parliament passed a bill March 19, following a legislative proposal put forward by the country's government, by a majority of 112 out of 141 ministers. MPs. The measure will be effective for at least five years, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

"As we have changes in the geopolitical situation in the region, we have to additionally [bolster our] defense capacity in response," said Lithuania's Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius. "Therefore, a decision has been made to temporarily resume the mandatory military service."

Under the plan, men between the ages of 19 to 26, and graduates of higher education institutions up to age 38, are to serve in the Lithuanian Armed Forces. Between 3,000 and 3,500 men will be drafted each year, according to the ministry.

"According to our estimations, the main group interested in joining the voluntary military service will be young school graduates who do not have a clear view of their future plans, studies and profession yet," said Maj. Gen. Major General Jonas Vytautas Žukas, chief of staff of the Lithuanian armed forces.

Baltic States React To Ukraine Crisis

Lithuania scrapped conscription in 2008. Neighboring Estonia has maintained it, while the government of Latvia has been considering a draft to increase its military numbers. Meanwhile, local analysts say that since 2008, Lithuanian politicians have been increasingly worried by Russia's military policy in Eastern Europe.

"The main reasons for the return of conscription to Lithuania is the changing geopolitical situation in the region, and the aggressive stance by Russia," said Tomas Janeliunas, associate professor at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science at Vilnius University and editor of the Lithuanian Foreign Policy Review. "As Ms. Jovita Neliupsiene, an adviser to Lithuania's president said [March 17], the current manning of the Lithuanian Army does not correspond to the geopolitical realities."

The country's armed forces are currently undermanned, with an estimated and it is estimated that the military's current manning level of is only 35 percent of its designed capability, according to the expert.

"Conscription is a faster and cheaper way of improving the capabilities of the Lithuanian Army," Janeliunas said, adding that neighboring Latvia could perhaps follow in the steps of Lithuania.

Czech Government Fears Regional Conflicts

Also in the Czech Republic, the Defense Ministry of Defense announced plans to reinstate conscription, and it is currently drafting a bill with this aim. Should the draft law enter into force, conscription will is to become obligatory for men and women above the age of 18.

"We cannot ignore the current threats. The example of Ukraine shows that conflicts can spread quickly and take place relatively close [to the Czech Republic]," Czech Defense Minister Martin Stropnicky told local daily Mlada fronta DNES.

Should the draft bill secure the backing of the Czech Parliament, the first call for conscripts would take place in 2017. In addition to this, the ministry is also aiming to introduce voluntary military training in peacetime.

In Poland, where conscription was scrapped by the government in 2009, to date, the government has not announced a return to conscription, although the conflict in Ukraine has spurred increased focus on national defense capabilities by local decision-makers.

However, This said, the latest opinion polls indicate that popular support for conscription is rising quickly. at fast pace.

In the years 2013-2022, the Polish government aims is aiming to earmark 139 billion zloty (US $35.6 billion) to overhaul and modernize the country's military capabilities.

This month, In March 2015, 80 percent of those polled said they were in favor of re-introducing conscription in Poland, which represented an 8 percent increase compared with November 2014, according to data from local opinion research institute IBRiS Homo Homini. Only 14 percent of those polled said they were strongly against a return to conscription, and the regions where support for reinstating it was the highest were those parts of Poland that which border with Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

With the upcoming parliamentary election in Poland scheduled for fall 2015, and representatives of the country's leading opposition party, Law and Justice (PiS), announcing they will restore conscription in case of their victory, the new government could opt for following the public opinion, and joining the ranks of Lithuania and the Czech Republic, according to various media reports.

Email: jadamowski@defensenews.com

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