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4 Apr, 2024 19:34

Germany must bring back conscription – defense minister

The nation’s armed forces should be “war-ready,” Boris Pistorius has said
Germany must bring back conscription – defense minister

Germany needs to reintroduce conscription, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius announced on Thursday as he unveiled an ambitious military reform plan aimed at making the nation’s armed forces fit for a potential conflict. Berlin abolished its military draft in 2011 and its army has since suffered from an acute personnel shortage.

“We have considered that compulsory military service will be reintroduced,” Pistorius told journalists in Berlin as he spoke about the new structure of the Bundeswehr, the nation’s armed forces. Specific plans involving potential conscription models were to be presented in April, the minister said.

The draft was suspended under amendments to the Compulsory Military Service Act passed by lawmakers in 2011. Reintroducing it would now require parliamentary approval. Pistorius did not provide any details about any potential conscription models, but some German media outlets reported that they could be based on the ones used by nations such as Sweden.

In Sweden, only a small portion of military-age youths are drafted every year, but those avoiding conscription face penalties up to jail sentences.

However, the plans were met with skepticism by Chancellor Olaf Scholz and faced opposition from Finance Minister Christian Lindner, according to media reports.

The measure was proposed by Pistorius as part of a major reform that is expected to be set in motion in the coming months, according to the minister himself. The new organizational structure is designed to make the German army more agile and effective and generally “optimally positioned … in the event of an emergency, in the event of defense, in the event of war.”

The military should be turned into a credible deterrent to prevent anyone from even thinking about “attacking us as a NATO territory,” Pistorius said, adding that the most important decisions were “to be implemented in the next few months.”

The German military has been suffering from major personnel and equipment shortages for years. In mid-March, the parliamentary commissioner for the Bundeswehr, Eva Hoegl, revealed in her annual report that the number of military personnel shrank further last year and that the dropout rate was “still very high,” while the number of new applications was decreasing.

A survey conducted at the same time showed that only 10% of Germans expressed confidence that the armed forces could defend the country in the event of a conflict. However, it is unclear if reinstating the draft could change this situation. A poll conducted in December 2023 demonstrated that only 17% of Germans were “definitely” willing to take up arms and defend their country even if faced with foreign aggression.