Germany to Become a ‘Nation Ready for War,’ Promises Defense Minister Pistorius

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has pledged to transform Germany into a "nation ready for war," unveiling a new proposal for selective military service aimed at bolstering the armed forces amid rising tensions with Russi

by Sededin Dedovic
Germany to Become a ‘Nation Ready for War,’ Promises Defense Minister Pistorius
© Sascha Schuermann / Stringer

The German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has presented a proposal for selective military service aimed at volunteers to strengthen the armed forces in the face of tensions with Russia, following widespread opposition to the return of conscription.

The proposal is part of Germany's shift towards a stronger foreign and defense policy, which Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced as a “turning point of an era” in the days following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Approximately 13 years after Germany suspended mass conscription, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said that all men would need to complete a questionnaire to assess their suitability and interest in military service once they turn 18.

The questionnaire would be optional for women.

Selecting the Most Suitable and Motivated

Then, about ten percent would be chosen before narrowing down to the most suitable and motivated to undergo six months of basic service – with the possibility of extension up to 17 months.

“Those most suitable and motivated should be selected for military service,” Pistorius told reporters, as reported by Reuters. With this new model, the goal is to increase the number of young people in voluntary military service to 15,000, an increase of 5,000 in the first year, the Ministry stated, and that number would grow year by year.

Pistorius has promised to turn Germany into a nation “ready for war,” warning that a war between the western defense alliance NATO and Russia could happen in five to eight years. Calls for increasing the number of soldiers could pose another headache for the government in Berlin, which is struggling with how to finance increased defense spending after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The German Defense Ministry believes it will need at least 75,000 additional soldiers to fulfill its obligations to the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) as the Alliance adapts to facing what it sees as an increasingly hostile Russia, reported Spiegel magazine last week, as quoted by Reuters.

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius reviews a guard of honour at the Defence Ministry shortly after being sworn in on Januar© Sean Gallup / Getty Images

NATO leaders last year signed the first major defense plans since the end of the Cold War, detailing how the Alliance would respond to a Russian attack.

This move marked a fundamental change – for decades, NATO did not see a need to develop such plans, as it conducted smaller wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and was confident that post-Soviet Russia no longer posed an existential threat.

Reuters further reports that NATO and national military planners have translated the plans into specific requirements, identifying shortages of soldiers, weapons, and other equipment needed for defense against a Russian attack, which, according to the top of the German army, could come as early as 2029.

Based on the requirements, allies will have to negotiate which country will fill which gaps in capacities. The requirements will include stricter targets for strengthening air defense, stockpiling long-range missiles, and logistical capabilities, a European diplomat told Reuters.

After the Cold War, many NATO allies reduced the number of air defense units to reflect the assessment that they would only have to deal with a limited missile threat coming from countries like Iran. Germany had 36 Patriot units when it was NATO’s leading state during the Cold War.

Now it has nine such units. New NATO requirements mean that the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, will need an additional 75,000 soldiers to fill the additional allied corps, divisions, and brigades needed to implement defense plans, reported Spiegel, citing confidential Defense Ministry documents.

A senior military source told Reuters that the number might need to be higher as Germany would be a major stronghold and logistical hub in a conflict, suggesting “a figure in the mid-five digits” in addition to the mentioned 75,000.

The Ministry was not immediately available for comment. The Bundeswehr now has approximately 180,000 soldiers and 80,000 civilian employees.

The Issue of Spending and Military Service

Defense spending has become a key point for Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s tripartite coalition in budget discussions for the next year.

In 2022, Scholz introduced a fund of 100 billion euros to rebuild the military. Germany is now ready, for the first time since the end of the Cold War, to meet NATO's commitment to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense. But after overcoming a budget mess earlier this year, the government is again haggling over how to continue financing the military after the 100 billion fund expires.

Scholz supported his finance minister who rejected Defense Minister Boris Pistorius’s requests to increase the defense budget, now estimated at approximately 52 billion euros, by an additional 6.7 billion euros in 2025.

Pistorius has also tasked his Ministry with exploring potential models for reintroducing a form of military service. Spiegel writes that the plan is to recruit 10,000 people annually, asking volunteers to fill out a questionnaire in a campaign with the slogan “The Best Year of My Life”.