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Army joins battle on mandatory military service

The Armed Forces have weighed in on the heated debate about mandatory military service. On Monday evening the issue was again under the limelight on Yle’s A-studio programme.

Image: Yle

A number of NGOs have been running campaigns against compulsory military service, with the aim of presenting Finnish Parliament with a 50,000 signatory-strong citizen’s initiative to ban conscription.

The Defence Forces have been closely following the debate. Numerous pro-conscription letters and columns by officers and regional army heads have been published in the last couple of weeks, particularly in regional areas. Such praise for the benefits of military service has been ramped up in parallel with the push to ban conscription.

NGO-led push to scrap conscription

The campaign against conscription has been spearheaded by several groups, including pro-peace organisation Committee of 100 (Sadankomitea), Profeministimiehet (Pro-feminist Men), Vihreä miesliike (the Green Men’s League) and the Pirate Party.

Committee of 100 Secretary General, Eekku Aromaa, says that the various organizations and people involved are united by the idea that the conscription system is old-fashioned and inegalitarian.

Some of the citizens and organizations propose selective conscription or a professional army as the solution to Finland's defence dilemma. However, according to Aromaa, the Committee of 100 hopes that the army could be reduced to zero, and the dismantling of compulsory military service would be a good step in the right direction.

Army information head Sakari Lauriala says that military service is a significant issue for Defence Forces communications and social media is also key for targeting young audiences.

Army launches celebrity counterstrike

Radio Rock presenter Jone Nikula is one public personality who has chosen to lend his voice to the military cause. He told A-studio that the army had already lined up a budget for the marketing video that he appeared in but that he would have been happy to have done it for free.

”In my opinion, if I can save one man or woman from being terror-struck at the thought of military service, then I’ve done good,” says Nikula.

”Mandatory military service is the best way to organize a credible defence," he adds. "Also, big countries like Great Britain are facing difficulties with paid armies. Mercenary forces don’t necessarily attract the cream of the crop.”

The campaign for mandatory service has gleaned support from many quarters, including writers and academics.

A recent working group report suggested that the Defence Forces should participate more actively in public discussion about mandatory military service and other defence issues.