Compulsory conscription in Finland: an example for us, because it is the majority and almost everyone agrees with it

There has been a lot of public debate recently about the duty to defend and how other countries are dealing with this sensitive issue. Lithuania is preparing a reform of the system of permanent compulsory initial military service, some of which is similar to that of the newest NATO member Finland, according to a press release.

Every citizen must participate or contribute to national defence in Finland.<br>Suomijos gynybos ministerijos nuotr.
Every citizen must participate or contribute to national defence in Finland.<br>Suomijos gynybos ministerijos nuotr.
Daugiau nuotraukų (1)

Ministry of National Defence

2023-12-09 09:01

In Lithuania, the system reform aims to abolish student deferment exemptions. The reform is expected to ensure that young people will be called up at the age of 18 and will be able to have a health check in their last year of school to find out if they will be called up for military service.

This reform is expected to bring Lithuania's active reserve strength to around 47,000 by 2030, as the reserve is an integral part of every army's strategic plan. The reform aims to increase the total number of Lithuanian Armed Forces, attract new personnel and retain those already in professional military service.

Every citizen must participate or contribute to national defence

Finland, the newest NATO member and our northern neighbour has long been recruiting young people for compulsory military service. Young men in Finland are obliged to do military service, while young women can choose to volunteer to serve their country.

The duty of Finns to defend their country is laid down in Section 127 of the Finnish Constitution, which begins: „Every Finnish citizen is obliged to take part in, or contribute to, the defence of the country“.

The Finnish Compulsory Military Service Act, also known as the Military Conscription Act, elaborates on this by stating: „Every male Finnish citizen, between the ages of 18 and 60, is obliged to carry out military service unless otherwise provided for“.

In Finland, men are either on active service or in the reserve or auxiliary reserve. Active military service is performed between the ages of 19 and 20. In exceptional cases, men join between 18 and 29 years of age.

Service in the Finnish Defence Forces is only one way of doing one's duty for the homeland, but most Finnish men follow this military path. As a result, most Finnish men in each generation spend a lot of time learning practical military skills.

All men who turn 18 are conscripted in the same year. The call-up tests the conscripts' fitness for service. If a conscript is medically unfit for service, he is exempted from peacetime military service. A conscript may also request a postponement of his service, but this requires a valid reason. For young Finns, service may be postponed in the event of medical disability.

If a person does not want to serve in the army, they can opt for civilian service. The other option is to refuse to participate in the proceedings, which is punishable by up to 173 days imprisonment or almost half a year.

Non-military service, ethical and religious exemptions, and medical refusals are relatively rare, and as a result, more than 70% of Finnish men of draft age do military service every year.

Depending on the complexity of the military training, military service in Finland can last 165 (about half a year), 255 (about eight months) or 347 (almost a year) days. Non-military service lasts 347 days.

Reducing social exclusion and building a credible military force

Military service provides conscripts with quality military training and allows them to use their previous skills and knowledge in performing their duties. In Finland, conscription is a socially important event that aims to reach out to all young people and help prevent social exclusion.

Finnish men are placed in the reserve after completing their military service. The regulars remain in the reserve until they reach the age of 50, during which time they will have to spend between 80 and 150 days in the reserve to improve their military qualifications and training. Officers and non-commissioned officers will remain in the reserve until they reach the age of 60. During that time, they will be required to spend 200 days on military training, qualification, and exercises. All Finnish men aged between 18 and 60 belong to the auxiliary reserve.

Conscription is not very common among NATO members. Only Denmark, Estonia, and Greece have conscription conditions similar to those of the new ally Finland.

Although the Conscription Act does not oblige Finnish women to join the army, since 1995, Finnish women have had the opportunity to serve voluntarily in the Finnish Defence Forces. Women have the same service requirements and education as men. The same conditions apply to leadership training and military career prospects.

Over the last few decades, military service has become more popular among Finnish women, and the overall recruitment trend of women in the armed forces has been increasing. In the first year that women were allowed to serve, Finnish women submitted around 800 applications, but by January 2023, there were already 1,258.

Thanks to the strength of the units and the large reserve created by the Finnish conscription model, Finland has a credible military force that acts as a deterrent. Without compulsory military service, there would be no reasonable national defence and no deterrent against any potential aggressor. Conscription builds and maintains a high level of readiness for the defence forces and prepares conscripts for the military reserve. Thanks to this service, Finland has sufficient resources to enable the army, navy and air force to operate effectively in a crisis or war. Conscription is seen by the Finns themselves as a cost-effective way of building up a large and capable military reserve.

Conscription and the training that conscripts receive when they enter the service change over time. The training system is constantly being improved to meet the changing requirements and needs of the defence forces.

According to a survey commissioned by the Finnish Ministry of Defence, Finns' willingness to defend their country reached an all-time high last year, with 83% of respondents saying they would protect their country with arms. A similar 85% of respondents were optimistic about Finland's desire to join NATO. Public support for compulsory military service is also at an all-time high, with 82% of Finns agreeing that they must serve their country.

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