The article discusses the idea of comprehensive national defence from a wide historical and geographical perspective. Countries facing different security challenges have used the concept of involving the entire society in state defence. From a historical perspective, ‘total defence’, with an emphasis on military components, was used primarily by non-aligned states during the Cold War; the breakdown of the Soviet Union reduced the importance of ‘total defence’; however, the emergence of hybrid threats in the 21st century has contributed to the rebirth of the concept in the form of ‘comprehensive national defence’, for application in circumstances wherein potential adversaries use military and non-military means in an integrated manner.
Defence policy and related activities, such as territorial defence and comprehensive defence, are considered a matter of national priority and consensus in Estonia since its restoration of independence in 1991. The actual meaning and its content have depended on numerous linguistic and cultural factors. Educational traditions and alliance relations have played an important role as well. In some cases, changes in actual defence policy content first required an ability to change military terminology and outlook. The current study analyses the meaning of territorial defence, comprehensive defence and total defence in official documents and based on focus group interviews among officers of BDCOL and EMA.
This article explores how comprehensive defence has been introduced in Latvia, and focuses on society’s involvement and tasks in the state defence. This approach envisages a significant change in society’s relationship with the armed forces and state defence. Differently from many other countries, Latvia maintains its system without introducing conscription and instead puts efforts towards youth education in defence. Additionally, the Ministry of Defence involves different society groups and NGOs in defining their role in state defence. This article also discusses the concepts of resistance and non-collaboration as part of comprehensive defence.
In response to the power redistribution in the international system, the United States prepares for long-term Great power competition. It is aiming at strengthening America’s network of alliances and partnerships in order to counter a rising China and revisionist Russia. The other states react to greater or lesser extent to the changing constraints and opportunities in the international system. The article examines how Lithuania, being a small state that belongs to the North Atlantic Alliance, is adapting to these systemic pressures. Current NATO’s deterrence posture in the Baltic region is something akin to deterrence by the assured response – NATO is sending a signal that if the Russians attacked, NATO would respond in the Baltics. Lithuania, as well as other Baltic countries, has undertaken many legal, procedural, financial and technical measures to boost resilience and deterrence. However, there are not enough national or NATO military forces that would be able to counter conventional Russian forces deployed in the region. There are challenges such as air defence and control of the Baltic Sea. Also land forces are not present in adequate quantities. As a result, Lithuania has to strengthen its own capabilities with the help of the allied countries. It argued in the article that building up a total defence system in Lithuania would be a right effort in this regard.