Germany is under the gun


The defense ministry is looking for ways to increase the size of the army and staff it with guys who can be trusted with modern equipment

Before the beginning of June, the head of the German Defense Ministry Boris Pistorius must publicly present a plan to significantly increase the number of the Bundeswehr. On his order, military analysts are working on the proposals.

The newspaper Welt am Sonntag got some information. Three ways to improve the situation are being discussed. The first is to strengthen the information campaign about military service. All Bundesbürgers will be asked to fill out an online questionnaire when they reach the age of 18 and study materials about the Bundeswehr. This «early contact» is supposed to attract more volunteers to the army. But experts look at this idea with pessimism, although it has the advantage of avoiding major changes in legislation.

According to the second option, adult men would be required to fill out a questionnaire (this, by the way, is a typical German approach…) to assess their readiness for military service, and then some of them would be further tested for selective conscription. Exactly how the selection will be carried out is still unclear.

And finally, the third proposal: to introduce mandatory questionnaires (!) not only for men, but also for women, in order to cover more people. The choice of military service in this case «can be highly voluntary». Welt am Sonntag believes that «on the basis of this model, the introduction of universal compulsory service could be discussed», i.e. a return to military conscription.

According to the newspaper, Pistorius rejected all three proposals and instructed his analysts to either optimize them in some way or make new ones.

During a recent trip to the United States, the head of the Bundeswehr said he regretted the abandonment of compulsory military service in Germany.

Let me remind you that it was abolished on July 1, 2011. Since then, the army has been staffed on a contract basis. At the end of October last year, 181,383 people served in the Bundeswehr. By 2025 it was planned to increase the army’s strength to 203,000 bayonets. However, the plans were drawn up before the Ukrainian crisis began and do not reflect NATO’s new goals of dramatically increasing the number of personnel in the armed forces.

It is known that in recent years the Bundeswehr has faced major problems in recruiting new personnel. One in four recruits leaves the military after a probationary period. The numbers are maintained at the expense of those who have signed a second contract.

But this is not all the woes. As a rule, uneducated «Rambo-type guys with a mountain of muscles and a lack of brains», who cannot be trusted with modern equipment, join the service.

Another problem that does not make Berlin look good has come to light. At the same time as German capitalist workers are producing Mercedes, Velaro and Airbuses, in the FRG (according to a study by the University of Hamburg) about 6.2 million adults between the ages of 18 and 64 suffer from functional illiteracy. And another 2.3 million Bundesbürger are considered to be completely illiterate! Think about it: the total number of those who can neither read nor write at all, functionally illiterate and low-literate, according to estimates by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, amounts to almost 14% of the population (more than 83 million people) of the country that is a member of the G7.

It is not only the elderly, but also the young. Indeed, why would a future butcher or baker need a primer? After all, sooner or later he will inherit his father’s shop anyway… Therefore, many guys go out into the big life not burdened with useless for them knowledge, preferring gym instead of reading. And while the parents continue the family business, the undereducated offspring go to the army. Where else?

The salaries in the Bundeswehr are not bad. Private soldier (depending on seniority) receives €1300-€1600 per month, corporal — €1600-€1800, lieutenant — €2000-€2700, general — more than €10000.

By the way, the discussion about a return to compulsory conscription started back in 2018, when the Conservatives and Angela Merkel were in power. An expanded version was debated: the so-called «universal compulsory national service for men and women who have reached the age of 18». They borrowed the idea of «national service» from French President Emmanuel Macron. Compulsory army conscription in France was abolished in the late 1990s under President Jacques Chirac. It was replaced by the so-called «civilian training camps», in which women and men of conscription age prepared for the «defense of the nation». Initially lasting five days, they were later reduced to one. Macron changed the approach. Potential recruits were supposed to be persuaded (but not forced) either to join the army or to join existing structures where alternative service was available.

In general, in Europe, there is confusion on this issue. In Denmark, for example, all adult men who are fit for health reasons are subject to a mandatory four-month military service. In Greece, men between the ages of 19 and 45 are conscripted: eight months in the land forces and one year in the air force or navy. Sweden brought back compulsory conscription in 2017 — eight years after its abolition. In Austria and Switzerland, referendums were held in 2013 to abolish conscription. The majority of citizens were in favor of preserving it.

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces of the German Bundestag Eva Högl (SPD) said that about 20,000 vacant positions are now open in the army, but no one is in a hurry to join the service. In her opinion, the plans of the Bundeswehr leadership not only to fill the deficit, but also to increase the number of the Bundeswehr by another 20,000 soldiers by next year seem «unattainable at the current rate of recruitment of contract soldiers». So what to do? Just think, Pistorius, think…