Germany considering mandatory military service for all 18-year-olds


Germany is considering introducing conscription for all 18-year-olds, as it looks to boost its troop numbers in the face of Russian military aggression.

Military planners in Berlin are in the final stages of discussing three options, two of which involve a form of conscription, according to leaked plans reported in the German media.

Boris Pistorius, the defence minister, is set to go public with the official plans by June.

In one of the options being discussed, Germany would bring back a compulsory military year for young men once they turn 18, which was suspended in 2011, and apply it to women as well. This would require a change to the German constitution, but is seen inside the ministry as most likely to receive societal approval.

Another option would only apply to 18-year-old men, but would not see everyone selected. They would be required to fill in an online form and could then be chosen for service, according to details leaked to Die Welt newspaper. This is seen by the defence ministry as “a strong signal” to both allies and rivals.

The third option would avoid compulsory service, focusing instead on “optimising” the current system by engaging in more proactive recruitment campaigns

However, Mr Pistorious is believed to be against that route. During a trip to Washington this week, he said: “I’m convinced that Germany needs a form of military conscription.”

Mr Pistorius, who polls regularly show to be the country’s most popular politician, has previously described the decision to suspend conscription as “a mistake”.

Its possible reintroduction comes as Germany’s ageing society means the number of soldiers heading into retirement is outstripping the number of new recruits joining up to replace them.

Meanwhile, Berlin has also set a target of raising the size of its armed forces from some 180,000 today to more than 200,000.

The defence ministry is believed to be sceptical that this target can be met without some form of conscription.

Opposition within government

Mr Pistorius is likely to face considerable resistance to his plans from inside the German government, however.

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