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Germany Seriously Reconsidering Military Conscription

REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

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JP Carroll National Security & Foreign Affairs Reporter
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As Europe faces a historic refugee crisis, increased terrorist attacks, and a belligerent Russia, the German government is considering reinstating conscription for national emergencies.

Germany got rid of conscription of 2011 after 55 years of use. German national service was required of all German adults upon leaving their high school studies; national service was defined either as 18 months working as a civilian for the government, or nine months in uniform with the military. In the Cold War era though, West Germany defined “national service” specifically as conscription for 18 months.

The plan the government proposes, , called “Support of the Armed Forces,” will come to a vote Wednesday. Re-initiating conscription is part of a wider overhaul of the German military, the likes of which has not been seen since the Cold War came to an end.

Wednesday’s vote is expected to go the government’s way since mandatory military service is still technically a part of Germany’s constitution, even though the government is not enforcing the national service provision. This reform comes in the wake of the Munich terrorist attack in July which saw a lone-wolf 18-year-old dual Iranian and German citizen Ali Sonboly shoot and kill nine people, and injure another 27 before killing himself.

German Defense Minister Ursula Von Der Leyen ordered 100 German soldiers to be at the ready to help Munich police hunt down Sonboly but ultimately they did not act. At the moment, Germany has strict laws on the books regarding when the Army can and cannot assist in security matters within Germany itself.

A central plank of reforming the military if the vote for the government plan is successful, is for the Army to be allowed to be deployed within Germany and aid the police particularly in dealing with counter-terrorism operations. In the post-World War II era, the German constitution – which serves as an important check against a return to Nazi era government powers – does not allow for the Army to be an active force on German soil unless there is an unprecedented national emergency or the country is defending itself from invaders.

On Monday the German government sold $437 million worth of military vehicles to Lithuania for 88 armored Boxer cars. Both Germany and Lithuania are NATO member states and Lithuania borders Russia. The Baltic state’s Defense Minister Juzas Olekas said when the deal was finalized that it, “is a signal that Lithuania takes care of its security, and investments into it seriously.”

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