The discussion about the reintroduction of conscription occupies politics. A look at the Scandinavian neighbors shows, however, that conscription can also be successful. So could the Scandinavian conscription model become a role model for Germany?
Some debates come up again and again – one of them is the discussion about conscription. Since it was suspended in 2011 under Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (CSU) and the black-yellow federal government, Berlin has been struggling with the question again and again. And precisely in view of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, the heated discussion has been rekindled. Federal Defense Minister Boris Pistorius also publicly stated: “It was a mistake to suspend conscription”.
While most European countries have abolished conscription, Sweden and Norway do have conscription – and with success. Could the Scandinavian model become a role model for Germany?
Being defensible as a country is no longer a purely theoretical discussion, at least since the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. It has long been known that the Bundeswehr lacks personnel. More than 20,000 posts were recently vacant, according to the current military report.
Nevertheless, many politicians consider reintroducing conscription a mistake. So did Alexander Müller, defense policy spokesman for the FDP: “The solution to personnel problems in the Bundeswehr is not conscription, but a reform of the structures”.
Bundeswehr expert Thomas Wiegold sees problems with the reintroduction in particular: “A quick reintroduction of conscription without preparation would be devastating, because the old structures have been completely abolished,” he told the Tagesspiegel. There is also a lack of trainers, space in barracks and, above all, material. However, a look abroad shows that conscription can also be successful.
After a number of other European countries suspended conscription, Sweden followed suit in 2010. However, the Swedish armed forces faced a problem: they could not find enough volunteer soldiers. In 2016, the Swedes were already missing more than 7,000 soldiers, although even then Stockholm felt increasingly threatened by Moscow. Finally, in March 2017, the Swedish government reintroduced conscription.
The effects were amazing: on the day of the reintroduction, the number of applications was three times higher than usual. The main reason for this is that the public debate revolved around security concerns and not purely about social commitment, according to Business Insider. The shortage of personnel in the Swedish armed forces was thus resolved.
And Norway also went a special way: In 2015, they were the first NATO country to introduce compulsory military service for women. Sweden adopted this decision when it introduced conscription.
All young women and men in Norway, Sweden and Finland are screened, but only a small proportion are selected for basic military service, reports the Tagesspiegel. Accordingly, the armies choose the personnel themselves – but conscientious objection is still possible.
So would the Scandinavian model also be conceivable in Germany? The military expert Carlo Masala wrote on Twitter that he was fundamentally opposed to conscription, “but if the political train should go in this direction, then we should orientate ourselves on the Swedish and/or Norwegian model”.