Does Georgia need military conscription?
07 August, 2015
Does Georgia need military conscription?
In mid-July, a certain bill was registered in Parliament. In the case of its approval, a considerable part of the Georgian population will breathe a sigh of relief, but it’s difficult to say whether the country’s defense capability will suffer or gain from it.

The points of view of the defense minister and the Chief of Joint Staff on the issue do not fully coincide.

We are, of course, talking about the proposed amendments to the Georgian Law on Conscription
and Military Service that envisages the abolition of obligatory military service and the promotion of professional service instead using the funds that the abolition will liberate. If the bill is passed, obligatory military service will be cancelled not only for the Ministry of Defense, but also for the State Protection Special Service, the Intelligence Service, the Interior Ministry and the Corrections Ministry. As for self-governing institutions, services responsible for drafting and conscription of citizens will be disbanded.

According to the bill, every citizen of Georgia will still have to fulfill the military duty if martial law is declared. Tina Khidasheli, the acting Minister of Defense, thinks that a professional army would be stronger than its conscripted counterpart. However, she specifies that she’s against full abolishment of conscription and that there should be a possibility to amend the law to allow for certain cases where re-establishment of conscription is permitted.

The opinion of the Chief of Joint Staff Major-General Vakhtang Kapanadze on the issue is as follows:

“Possessing professional armed forces is a good thing, but why should conscription be restricted in case of the need to rapidly increase the amount of military units at our disposal? I don’t think this law should be adopted so hastily and uncompromisingly.

Minister of Defense Tina Khidasheli claims that currently conscripts comprise less than 10 percent of the total military personnel and that in autumn the Ministry of Defense will draft only a thousand soldiers. The practice of conscription may be completely abandoned starting in 2016.

Currently, contractors serve alongside conscripts in our army. The staff gives preference to the contractors because they have more responsibility and it’s also easier to punish them compared to the conscripts, who are interested in nothing else but counting down the days left until demobilization. There is also the other side of the coin – it is written in the bill that every citizen will be liable for conscription in the case of military conflict. But if a war is already being waged, who will have time to train them?

Of course, a young man who guarded a store or a police facility for a year won’t be very good for participating in military operations but as opposed to his civilian peer, he can at least handle a gun more safely and defend the perimeter of an important facility.

Minister of Defense Tina Khidasheli claims that currently conscripts comprise less than 10 percent of the total military personnel and that in autumn the Ministry of Defense will draft only a thousand soldiers. The practice of conscription may be completely abandoned starting in 2016.

It is highly unlikely that the other ministries will share the Defense Minister’s opinion, especially considering that they are still in need of almost-free labor – namely, security police and penitentiary colonies’ perimeter guards.

The Baltic

Seven years after abolishing conscription in 2008, Lithuania restored it for a 5-year period in 2015. As explained by Lithuanian politicians, this was caused by changes in the geopolitical situation and military aggression on the part of Russia.
The Latvian authorities decided not to imitate their neighbor, however. They are not going to restore con­scription.

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