For several centuries, conscription service has been intertwined with national sovereignty and statehood. For the last decades, however, Europe has been enjoying the peace divided while relying on NATO’s collective defence and the US’s role as a security guarantor. And thus, many Allies gradually halted conscription and transitioned to the all-volunteer forces.
Yet, the tides have been turning again. With interventionist Russia and increasingly assertive China, their small democratic neighbours are wary of a potential territorial conflict with larger authoritarian adversaries.
Acknowledging the reality of limited human resources, small states – of whom Estonia is one example – have been moving towards what is known as a ‘comprehensive national defence’ that relies, among other things, on well-trained reservists or volunteers. And conscription is the main generator thereof.
The cornerstone of Estonia’s national defence is the population’s will to defend the country — each citizen can and should contribute to their nation’s security. A highly skilled reserve force that can defend the homeland is what allows Estonia to achieve it.
Optimisation of resource distribution and management is another aspect constantly of concern to small states – and in particular, Georgia. As Estonia’s experience has shown, military training is a state’s cost-effective, long-term investment into an individual conscript’s more secure future, as well as that of the entire country.
Bearing in mind that the Estonian model cannot be fully replicated — either in Georgia or in any other state — there are, nonetheless, many policies and practices that could and should apply. This paper offers recommendations that – if adopted – will strengthen the Georgian national defence system.
Download and read: Conscription in Estonia and Georgia: Lessons from and for Small-State Peers (PDF)