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Some European, Nordic Countries Eyeing Return to Conscription

The Bread Guy

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Interesting piece Sweden, France, Germany and other countries are either considering or being told to consider a return to conscription - shared under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act covering research, private study or education:
In 2010 the Swedish parliament, having decided it no longer needed the large armed forces that had for centuries defended the country, suspended the mandatory draft. The following year, so did Germany. Other European countries including France, Italy, Latvia and Lithuania likewise scrapped or suspended conscription as they concluded that large-scale defense was no longer necessary. But now the draft is making a comeback in Europe.

Johan Wiktorin, a Swedish former army officer who is now a security columnist and consultant explained the difficulties his country faced in transitioning to an all-volunteer force: “Volunteer soldiers are not in our culture, and it has been difficult for the armed forces to compete on the labor market.” As a result, the Swedish Armed Forces are having trouble recruiting soldiers, even at the reduced manpower requirements for a volunteer military. With the country’s healthy economy generating plenty of job opportunities, only the most dedicated young men and women will voluntarily join the armed forces—and there have turned out to be too few such people.

What’s more, with Russia looming larger than it has in decades, Sweden is moving to address its manpower shortage. This month, a government-appointed rapporteur is expected to recommend a return to the draft. According to the daily Svenska Dagbladet, the rapporteur—Annika Nordgren Christensen, a former Green Party MP who served on the parliament’s defense committee—will recommend that starting next year, all seventeen-year-olds will be registered for the draft, with selection taking place when they are eighteen. Unlike the previous draft, the new one will—if passed by parliament, as is likely—also include women. That will bring Sweden in line with Norway, which has already expanded its draft to women, and several other European countries that are considering doing so.

Other European countries face the same dilemma as Sweden: how to recruit soldiers when extremely few young people have had any interaction with the military. Teenagers decide they want to become doctors—or even bankers—based on their experience with medicine or banking, but the military? Past generations’ draft served not only to train reserves but to open young men’s eyes to the military as a career choice. In short, Europe is once again focusing on territorial defense.

Not surprisingly, other countries are rediscovering the draft too. In France, the draft is now being discussed as a response to terrorism, with Socialist Party presidential contender Arnaud Montebourg proposing a six-month general draft. In Germany, politicians such as the Christian Democrats’ parliamentary leader in Lower Saxony, Björn Thümler, argue that Germany should think about a return to the draft. (The Bundestag vote on March 24, 2011, suspended it rather than abolishing it altogether.) Thümler told the daily Die Welt: “It would be a way of preventing potential crises and would also ground the Bundeswehr in society more widely again.” Professor Patrick Sensburg, a CDU member of the Bundestag, argues that reinstating the draft would help Germany create “home defense battalions” to protect critical infrastructure.

A new civil defense white paper introduced by German interior minister Thomas de Maizière last month also brings up the draft, albeit in a circuitous way. Detailing contingency measures, the white paper mentions that Germany’s postal service has to prepare to efficiently deliver post, for example call-up papers from the Bundeswehr in the event of a return of the draft. But most decisionmakers oppose bringing the draft back, with Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen arguing last month that it would bring “no added benefit.”

To what extent did military leaders support or oppose the suspension of the draft? I asked Vice Admiral (ret.) Lutz Feldt, a former chief of the German Navy. Military leaders had an intense discussion at the top level about the best way forward, he explained, adding: “We told the politicians that we wanted to keep the draft, but only if it was for 12 months. Less time than that doesn’t make sense.”

While German conscripts were still serving fifteen months in 1990, by 2010 the draft had been reduced to six months. But in reality few people were actually drafted: many opted for the civilian option known as Zivildienst instead, while others found less legal ways out of military service. “You could get an exception if you knew the tricks,” Feldt said. “The mass contact with the military didn’t exist anymore.”

Feldt remains in close contact with active-duty staff. And today, he told me, officers feel it would be hard to reintroduce the draft. For one, the Bundeswehr lacks the large number of training officers needed to drill large classes of conscripts. But at the same time they realize that with its 176,841 soldiers and officers, the Bundeswehr is relatively small. With its six thousand active-duty soldiers, Estonia has 221 citizens per soldier, while there are 459 Germans per each active-duty soldier. The United Kingdom has 144,120 soldiers and officers. Rather than a return to the full-blown draft, many German officers instead support an expansion of the already existing voluntary draft: initial short training followed by twenty-three months of active duty. That offers voluntary conscripts the opportunity to subsequently move to active duty.

European countries flirting with the draft are not treading uncharted territory. Last year Lithuania, which suspended conscription in 2008, reintroduced it, initially for a period of five years. This year parliament made the draft permanent. At the same time parliament voted to establish a second brigade. In 2015 the armed forces drafted three thousand male conscripts for a nine-month conscription period; the same number was drafted this year, and starting next year 3,500 young Lithuanians will be drafted annually.

Rimas Ališauskas, head of defence policy section at Lithuania‘s Ministry of Defense, told me: “The manning shortages were acute across all land forces even before the establishment of the second brigade, and the second brigade has only increased the demand for personnel.” He continued: “And the draft also serves as a way of training the reserve. The conscripts who don’t opt to stay on as professional soldiers automatically join the reserve.”

Using the draft as a recruitment tool for the armed forces’ professional positions seems to be working in Lithuania. Ališauskas told me that some 20 percent of the conscripts to date have said they want to stay on as professional soldiers. While a brigade usually comprises some four thousand soldiers, Lithuania’s second brigade remains understaffed.

At the moment, the Lithuanian Armed Forces have the luxury of choosing their conscripts: according to Statistics Lithuania, the country’s statistics agency, 37,812 Lithuanians (about half of them boys) were born in 1997 and about the same number the year after. But birth rates are in sharp decline—only 30,459 Lithuanians were born in 2012—and hundreds of thousands of citizens have migrated to other EU countries. Since 1990, Lithuania’s population has dropped from 3.7 million to 2.9 million. In the future, predicts Ališauskas, the country may really have to draft youths rather than just selecting the most willing and capable ones as is currently the case.

Back in Sweden, six years after the draft was suspended there’s now a political consensus that it should be reinstated. “There are two arguments driving the draft debate,” Wiktorin said. “The first argument, pushed by the [ruling] Social Democrats, is an ideological one: ‘We’re a small nation and everyone needs to work together.’ The second one, pushed by the Liberals, focuses on efficiency.”

Even if Sweden returns to the draft next year, as seems likely, it won’t be as easy as just calling up enough eighteen-year-olds. Facilities and shooting ranges have been sold (often for a song); instructors have retired. “But even with the cost of buying new facilities and training more instructors, the draft will be cheaper than professional soldiers,” Wiktorin added. “And we’ll get information about all the young people in the country and get to choose the ones we want.”

Elisabeth Braw is Newsweek's Europe correspondent, currently with a strong focus on security issues. She joined Newsweek following a visiting fellowship at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University. Previously she was a senior reporter at the Metro International newspaper group, focusing on interviews with political and business leaders. Elisabeth has lived in Germany, from where she has an MA in political science and German literature; Italy; Washington, DC; and San Francisco. Based in London, she frequently also reports from Germany, and is currently working on a book about one of the Stasi's most successful operations. Follow her on twitter: @elisabethbraw.
Europe Rediscovers the Military Draft. (2016). The National Interest. Retrieved 14 September 2016, from http://nationalinterest.org/feature/europe-rediscovers-the-military-draft-17700?page=show


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Europe Rediscovers the Military Draft. (2016).
"With the country’s healthy economy generating plenty of job opportunities, only the most dedicated young men and women will voluntarily join the armed forces—and there have turned out to be too few such people."

“You could get an exception if you knew the tricks,” Feldt said.

Not the same era, not even the same continent, but the more times change...

"Rush to beat Draft swells ( National ) Guard ranks."  "Marriage bureau also busy". ( 1948 )



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Solidarity is the glue that keeps our Union together.

The word solidarity appears 16 times in the Treaties which all our Member States agreed and ratified.
Our European budget is living proof of financial solidarity.
There is impressive solidarity when it comes to jointly applying European sanctions when Russia violates international law.
The euro is an expression of solidarity.
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And when it comes to managing the refugee crisis, we have started to see solidarity. I am convinced much more solidarity is needed. But I also know that solidarity must be given voluntarily. It must come from the heart. It cannot be forced.
We often show solidarity most readily when faced with emergencies.
When the Portuguese hills were burning, Italian planes doused the flames.
When floods cut off the power in Romania, Swedish generators turned the lights back on.
When thousands of refugees arrived on Greek shores, Slovakian tents provided shelter.
In the same spirit, the Commission is proposing today to set up a European Solidarity Corps. Young people across the EU will be able to volunteer their help where it is needed most, to respond to crisis situations, like the refugee crisis or the recent earthquakes in Italy.
I want this European Solidarity Corps up and running by the end of the year. And by 2020, to see the first 100,000 young Europeans taking part.
By voluntarily joining the European Solidarity Corps, these young people will be able to develop their skills and get not only work but also invaluable human experience.

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We must defend ourselves against terrorism.
Since the Madrid bombing of 2004, there have been more than 30 terrorist attacks in Europe – 14 in the last year alone. More than 600 innocent people died in cities like Paris, Brussels, Nice, or Ansbach.
Just as we have stood shoulder to shoulder in grief, so must we stand united in our response.
The barbaric acts of the past year have shown us again what we are fighting for – the European way of life. In face of the worst of humanity we have to stay true to our values, to ourselves. And what we are is democratic societies, plural societies, open and tolerant.
But that tolerance cannot come at the price of our security.
That is why my Commission has prioritised security from day one – we criminalised terrorism and foreign fighters across the EU, we cracked down on the use of firearms and on terrorist financing, we worked with internet companies to get terrorist propaganda offline and we fought radicalisation in Europe's schools and prisons.
But there is more to be done.
We need to know who is crossing our borders.
That is why we will defend our borders with the new European Border and Coast Guard, which is now being formalised by Parliament and Council, just nine months after the Commission proposed it. Frontex already has over 600 agents on the ground at the borders with Turkey in Greece and over 100 in Bulgaria. Now, the EU institutions and the Member States should work very closely together to quickly help set up the new Agency. I want to see at least 200 extra border guards and 50 extra vehicles deployed at the Bulgarian external borders as of October.
We will defend our borders, as well, with strict controls, adopted by the end of the year, on everyone crossing them. Every time someone enters or exits the EU, there will be a record of when, where and why.
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And we all need that information. How many times have we heard stories over the last months that the information existed in one database in one country, but it never found its way to the authority in another that could have made the difference?
Border security also means that information and intelligence exchange must be prioritised. For this, we will reinforce Europol – our European agency supporting national law enforcement – by giving it better access to databases and more resources. A counter terrorism unit that currently has a staff of 60 cannot provide the necessary 24/7 support.
A Europe that protects also defends our interests beyond our borders.
The facts are plain: The world is getting bigger. And we are getting smaller.
Today we Europeans make up 8% of the world population – we will only represent 5% in 2050. By then you would not see a single EU country among the top world economies. But the EU together? We would still be topping the charts.
Our enemies would like us to fragment.
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Only together are we and will we remain a force to be reckoned with.
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Take the brutal fight over Syria. Its consequences for Europe are immediate. Attacks in our cities by terrorists trained in Daesh camps. But where is the Union, where are its Member States, in negotiations towards a settlement?
Federica Mogherini, our High Representative and my Vice-President, is doing a fantastic job. But she needs to become our European Foreign Minister via whom all diplomatic services, of big and small countries alike, pool their forces to achieve leverage in international negotiations. This is why I call today for a European Strategy for Syria. Federica should have a seat at the table when the future of Syria is being discussed. So that Europe can help rebuild a peaceful Syrian nation and a pluralistic, tolerant civil society in Syria.
Europe needs to toughen up. Nowhere is this truer than in our defence policy.
Europe can no longer afford to piggy-back on the military might of others or let France alone defend its honour in Mali.
We have to take responsibility for protecting our interests and the European way of life.
Over the last decade, we have engaged in over 30 civilian and military EU missions from Africa to Afghanistan. But without a permanent structure we cannot act effectively. Urgent operations are delayed. We have separate headquarters for parallel missions, even when they happen in the same country or city. It is time we had a single headquarters for these operations.
We should also move towards common military assets, in some cases owned by the EU. And, of course, in full complementarity with NATO.
The business case is clear. The lack of cooperation in defence matters costs Europe between €25 billion and €100 billion per year, depending on the areas concerned. We could use that money for so much more.
It can be done. We are building a multinational fleet of air tankers. Let’s replicate this example.
For European defence to be strong, the European defence industry needs to innovate. That is why we will propose before the end of the year a European Defence Fund, to turbo boost research and innovation.
The Lisbon Treaty enables those Member States who wish, to pool their defence capabilities in the form of a permanent structured cooperation. I think the time to make use of this possibility is now. And I hope that our meeting at 27 in Bratislava a few days from now will be the first, political step in that direction.
Because it is only by working together that Europe will be able to defend itself at home and abroad.