A number of high-ranking military officials have joined some politicians in calling for Germany to bring back compulsory military service, and the AfD parliamentary group has now tabled a motion to discuss the possibility in Germany’s parliament next month.
The motion entitled “Reactivation of conscription” will be debated in the Bundestag on March 3, after which the proposal will be referred to the parliament’s defense committee for further deliberation.
Military personnel have called for a return to military service, which was phased out under former chancellor Angela Merkel in 2011, in order to replenish the German army’s depleting numbers. The Bundeswehr currently has 183,500 active personnel, ranking it the 28th largest army in the world.
Proposals to bring back military service were initiated by newly appointed Defense Minister Boris Pistorius who suggested such a move would restore a “connection to civic society at large” for a German youth that has lost its sense of civic duty.
In condemning recent attacks on emergency responders and police officers, Pistorius told Bavarian newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, “It appears that the people have lost the awareness that they themselves are part of the state and of society. Taking responsibility for a set period could open eyes and ears to that.”
Calls were swiftly rejected by other members of the German federal government. Finance Minister Christian Lindner told the same newspaper the debate was a “phantom dispute” and insisted the government’s efforts “have to be concentrated on strengthening the Bundeswehr as a highly professional army.”
Government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit dismissed the proposal as “nonsensical.”
However, military leaders appear to be on the side of some form of conscription.
“I believe that a nation that needs to become more resilient in times like these will have a higher level of awareness if it is mixed through with soldiers,” said Jan Christian Kaack, the chief of the German navy.
Following the announcement of the parliamentary debate, AfD MP Rüdiger Lucassen told German news outlet Junge Freiheit: “The arguments against conscription were always bogus arguments,” and insisted the Bundeswehr in its current capacity “is not capable of national defense because of its lack of personnel.”
The debate follows recent polling by YouGov that revealed just 5 percent of Germans would volunteer for military service if the country came under attack, while almost five times more (24 percent) would flee the country as soon as possible. A third of respondents (33 percent) said they would try to continue to live their normal life.