VILNIUS , Lithuania, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Prompted by worries about neighboring Russia, Lithuania will bring back the military draft, President Dalia Grybuaskaite announced.
While not referring directly to Russia, Grybuaskaite said a five-year renewal of military conscription, beginning in September, will "enhance and accelerate army recruitment" in light of "the current geopolitical environment."
Russian President Vladimir Putin's claim that he would protect speakers of Russian, wherever they are, as well as Russia's annexation of Crimea and its involvement in Ukraine, has caused Lithuania and its Baltic neighbors--Latvia and Estonia--to revisit their defense plans. Each of the three was carved from the Soviet Union in 1991. All three are also NATO members and have a Russian-speaking minority population, which could provoke unrest.
Lithuania's proximity to Kalingrad--a Russian enclave--and the site of a military exercise in December involving 9,000 troops, could also cause disagreements.
NATO is building a rapid-reaction force to be stationed in the region. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linus Linkevicius previously said "we could be next" if relations with Russia deteriorate.
Lithuania, which abolished conscription in 2008, intends to enlist up to 3,500 men per year in its five-year plan.