German Government Introduces Bill Regarding the Low Number of Soldiers

Trent Barr
Trent Barr
Trent has years of experience and training in open source intelligence gathering and journalism. He specializes in Latin American, German, and Vatican affairs, with a broader interest in European politics. Trent serves as the Latin America Desk Chief for Atlas News.

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The German government introduced a bill on Wednesday that would send a questionnaire to all citizens who have turned 18 regarding their willingness to enlist in the Bundeswehr. The new bill was announced by the nation’s Minister of Defense, Boris Pistorius, who has previously campaigned for Germany to strengthen the nation’s military.

A Move to Remilitarize

The proposed law’s letter would ask a variety of questions regarding young men and women’s ability and willingness to serve in the Bundeswehr. From the answers, the Bundeswehr would choose the most suitable and interested in serving, scheduling a medical checkup for those chosen before being enlisted for a minimum of 6 months with the option of voluntarily signing up for an additional 17 months. Pistorius stated that the bill is due to increasing world tensions amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“Russia has now been waging a war against Ukraine for two and a half years—it is not only calling the rules-based international order into question, it is destroying it,” the Defense Minister told reporters. “This is a new-threat situation.”

German Minister of Defense Boris Pistorius. (Photo – POOL/AFP-JIJI)

It is important to note that this law is not a conscription law, as Germany’s previous conscription law was dissolved in 2011. However, conscription can be reintroduced if the government declares an emergency of defense. Rather, this law is intended to attract new soldiers into the ranks of the Bundeswehr amid record low enlistment rates. In 2023, the Bundeswehr reported 181,672 active duty personnel, a slight increase from the country’s record low in 2016, when the Bundeswehr registered only 176,015 active duty personnel compared to the nation’s high of approximately 495,000 active duty personnel in 1989.

Women will also receive letters from the Bundeswehr; however, Pistorius stated that they  are not obligated to answer, as enacting conscription for women is not in Germany’s foreseeable future.

This proposed law comes amid efforts by the German government to rearm and reform the Bundeswehr following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s subsequent “Zeitenwende speech,” or “turning point,” wherein the chancellor stated that Germany would increase its military spending from 1.5% to NATO’s target of 2% of the nation’s GDP. These rearmament efforts have increased recently, with the German government announcing plans to purchase an additional 20 Eurofighter aircraft from Airbus, eight additional Lockheed Martin F-35s, and an additional two hundred thousand 155mm artillery shells from domestic producer Rheinmetall.

Olaf Scholz speaking with the CEO of Airbus during the Berlin Air Show. (Photo – Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Zeitenwende has been perceived as a relative success, as Germany is set to reach NATO’s 2% GDP spending goal for the first time since the late 1990s, a trend that can also be seen with numerous other NATO members since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In another move to remilitarize the country, Germany announced plans to construct a NATO base in Lithuania, making the base the first German military base constructed outside Germany since World War II, which resulted in condemnation from Russian officials. Domestic officials also criticized the move, stating that it would create a dent in equipment for troops stationed inside Germany and shake the nation’s already unstable budget.

Despite this buildup, however, a number of analysts have expressed doubts regarding Germany’s military readiness anytime soon. Bastian Giegerich, the head of the London-based International Institute for Security Studies, theorized that it could take Germany a decade to be prepared for a conflict while the country faces societal aversion to rearmament, as showcased in the rise of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany political party, which has called for the government to cease sending aid to Ukraine, claiming that aid would prolong the conflict and “could make us [Germany] party to a nuclear war,” according to DW.

The strengthening of Germany’s military will be a difficult path as the Bundeswehr faces years of underfunding and low numbers of those willing to serve. With what many European nations perceive to be Russian aggression on the rise, it remains unknown if Germany will be prepared for a serious military confrontation with their eastern neighbor.