Europe’s Conscription Challenge: Lessons From Nordic and Baltic States


As Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine reminds European countries about the importance of manpower, many are once again weighing the promise and perils of compulsory military service.

A Latvian soldier at a training exercise holds a rope

Sophia Besch and Katrine Westgaard dove into how countries like Sweden, Finland, and Estonia have reintroduced conscription amidst rising geopolitical tensions, especially on NATO's eastern flank. These nations have successfully used mandatory military service to not only strengthen their defense capabilities but also to build national unity. By looking at their experiences, they show how conscription can be used strategically to create military and societal benefits.

Drawing from these examples, they discuss what other European countries might gain from reinstating conscription and the hurdles that might appear. They highlight practical considerations like training and resource management while stressing the need for policies tailored to each nation's individual context. Ultimately, they suggest that while conscription isn't a cure-all for security issues, it can significantly bolster national defense and social cohesion when done right.