The Baltic States are busy developing guides to inform the population on the basic actions in case of war. This has sparked panic - people wonder if the situation is so serious?
“Make sabotage campaigns to the extent possible”
Recently, National Armed Forces, Chief of Defense of Latvia Lieutenant General Leonīds Kalniņš has told journalist Jānis Domburs the Defense Ministry is preparing amendments to the laws binding the citizens to show resistance to the aggressor in case of war. According to Kalniņš, the amendments look “to prevent repetition of 1940 when, Karlis Ulmanis ended his address with the well-known words: ‘I will stay in my place - you remain in yours.’” The chief of defense is sure that the events of 1940, when Soviet troops entered the country meeting no resistance, have changed the genetic code of Latvians. “Therefore, now, if something unreal happens and we lose the supreme command, soldiers and direct commanders will not have to wait for an order to start fighting to maintain the country’s sovereignty,” Leonīds Kalniņš said. In his words, the new law authorizes the population to show resistance in case of attack.
“No international court can convict a person for showing resistance to aggressor,” Kalniņš said, adding the invasion not always happens through classic war. “It may be a penetration attempt by small groups to change power in a small district,” he said. According to Kalniņš, to rebuff the enemy in such situation, the government will have the right to mobilize militia forces “Zemessardze” (“Defense of the Land”) and reserve officers for up to 72 hours. This will be done to respond immediately and do not wait for the parliament’s permission. Under the amendments to the Law on National Security, a citizen should “resist an aggressor by all means possible.” Besides, the population is required to support National Armed Forces and government organizations, organize civil disobedience actions and “make sabotage campaigns to cause damage to the aggressor.” Defense Minister of Latvia Raimonds Bergmanis says the amendments were needed to provide more details in the provisions of the Constitution saying that “Latvian people defend their sovereignty.” The minister is sure that the amendments do not impose any additional responsibilities on the people. The bill just says that in a crisis situation, everyone should try to help, everyone should know what measures to take, but not everyone should be ready to fight, as people will have many other duties to fulfill, the minister said. The amendments are yet to be approved by the government and the parliament.
Noteworthy that Bergmanis has signed a cooperation agreement with Janis Baumanis, chairman of the Latvian Association of Hunters (uniting over 9,000 people) to improve possibilities of “voluntary involvement of Latvian hunters into defense actions.” To that end, the signatories will be organizing seminars for hunters on the national defense concept, trainings for the population on various defense-related matters, provide recommendations on how to act in emergencies and on safe handling of weapons in accordance with mutually agreed programs. The Defense Ministry and the Hunters Association will also cooperate in providing patriotic education to young people and teaching them survival skills in nature.
How to make reserve officers attend reservist trainings?
In case of war, the economy of Latvia will sustain at least two weeks, the government says, and agriculture will function even in case of full isolation and war for as much period. “The country will need full support by business sector,” Diena (“Day”) newspaper writes. While part of the population is warring, the other part must feed them, both literally and figuratively. The military and civil defense systems provide for mobilization of both private and legal entities, as voluntary principles will not work in such conditions. The Defense Ministry representatives warn that in case of war, no one can migrate or hide (unlike the poll results - 40% of the polled citizens have diametrically opposite opinion).
The Latvian army is seriously concerned about the situation with reserve officers. In 2017, the Defense Ministry reported that in case of war, the country can count on 6500 professional militaries and 8000 members of Zemessardze (militia). The reserve officers number 7655 people, but these data are yet to be verified, the legal addresses and real residence of the reserve officers shall be checked.
Participation in military training for reserve officers was voluntary, but since 2015, it has become mandatory. The point is that many reserve officers have left the country for earning and their foreign employers do not care about their civil duty. So, they have to ignore gatherings and pay fines or refuse from their jobs and become unemployed. Noteworthy that there is no official statistics concerning the number of reserve officers residing and working abroad. However, the number of absentees at military trainings is quite impressive, according to Latvijas Avize. As a result, many reserve officers residing abroad refuse from Latvian citizenship to avoid annual fines.
Air-raid shelters under every house
In late January 2018, it was reported that Estonia like its neighbors will start providing its residents with manuals and guidebooks teaching fighting and survival skills in emergencies and war.
Brigadier General Martin Herem nominated for the Estonian army commander says such materials are a necessity and the Interior Ministry is working on it currently. Referring to Sweden’s experience, General Herem said about 4.7 million information materials in the principles of civil defense will be distributed there. These materials will help Swedish people take the necessary actions in case of an armed conflict or serious crisis.
Earlier, in December 2017, a member of the parliamentary commission for defense, former commander of Estonian Defense Forces, Ants Laaneots suggested reviving the air-raid shelters construction practices in the country. The politician is sure that Estonia needs to adopt Switzerland’s practices in the field and build bomb-shelters under all houses. A year ago, Estonian Cabinet of Ministers set up a special committee to develop proposals on quick notification of the people about potential military attack or natural disaster, as well as a program to prepare Estonians to the life “in conditions of information and energy blockade.”
In October 2016, the government approved a plan of mandatory alienation of public property in crisis situations. The given document defines what types of property the government is authorized to alienate and on what terms. This applies to transport first of all.
The Lithuanian government has published a 75-page guidebook “Prepare to survival in emergencies and war.” Over 30,000 copies were published. The guidebook among others requires residents of near border areas to closely follow the situation on the border and inform the government about potential attack or penetration. Besides, they are required to make sabotage campaigns and wage guerilla war. Presenting the guidebook, its authors said “the given book hints Russia that, unlike Ukrainians, Lithuanians cannot be caught off guard.” The manual contains detailed illustrations of Russian military hardware and ammunition. Besides, it teaches Lithuanians how “to spy on occupants.”
In March 2016, Vilnius amended its military doctrine and clearly mentioned the major potential enemy – Russia. Lithuania has been preparing “to fight potential invasion” for over three years. Big investments have been made in the Lithuanian Union of Riflemen, a militarized organization intended to train civilians to use weapons and wage a guerilla war.
According to The Independent, the Union has about 10,000 members, mostly men at the age of 40-50. The key personnel are former militaries who fought yet in Afghanistan as part of the Soviet Army. The volunteers have personal weapons, uniform and are training on a weekly-basis on the so-called Swiss model. According to the volunteers they are training day and night “to repel Russian aggression.” In June 2016, the Lithuanian Seimas permitted the Riflemen to buy and keep weapons and ammunition at home so that “potential enemy had no chance to destroy their arsenal quickly.”
According to the Police, the almost three-million-strong population of Lithuania keeps about 100,000 units of firearms. During the last years, sales of pistol guns and rifles increased by 10% and some people see certain threats to Lithuania. “In our country, the highest percentage of murders are recorded during home conflicts,” Julius Sabatauskas, the head of the parliamentary committee for law and legal order, uselessly tried to persuade the supporters of free sales of weapons. Some Lithuanians strategists say Russia will hardly attack openly. It will rather make penetration attempts through special services that will try to destabilize Lithuania from inside. Hence, Lithuanians are preparing to defend their country from such penetration attempts.
Vyacheslav Samoylov for EADaily