More and more people are leaving the Bundeswehr, saying they did not expect an armed conflict. The number is twice as large as last year.
The number of Germans seeking to quit their service in the country’s armed forces, Bundeswehr, has doubled since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the mass-circulated weekly Der Spiegel has reported.
From January to June 2, the Federal Office for Family and Civil Society received 533 applications to leave the service, which is twice as many as last year. The number of applications last year was 209.
Most of the applications (528) were filed by servicemen or reservists.
Most of the soldiers wishing to quit have said “they did not expect a military conflict” as the reason for their decision, a reference to potentially direct hostilities with Russia or deployment in conflict zones of NATO member-countries. Germany contributes nearly 14,000 troops to the ‘NATO Response Force’, a joint team drawn from member-nations.
German law has a provision that “no one may be forced to perform military service against his conscience”.
Der Spiegel’s revelation comes amid a debate in Germany over the Bundeswehr’s lack of battle-readiness—shortage of manpower and equipment—in view of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Earlier this month, the German parliament hastily approved a government plan to invest €100 billion to upgrade the Bundeswehr, described as the “biggest rearmament offensive since the fall of Hitler’s Third Reich 77 years ago”.
NATO's soft spot
TAZ reported that in Germany, many citizens who hold pacifist views face questions about whether they can support arms shipments to Ukraine and remain conscientious objectors in case of a war.
The Ukrainian conflict has also sparked a new debate in Germany about whether the authorities should reinstate compulsory service. President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has recently proposed compulsory service for women and men in the Bundeswehr or in social institutions, such as nursing homes and homeless shelters, but at the same time, he was opposed to universal conscription.
"Now, of all times, when tolerance for a different way of life and opinion is declining, compulsory service can become especially valuable,” he stressed. “People will step outside their comfort zone, meet other people, and help fellow citizens in difficult situations. It will break down prejudices and build a sense of solidarity.”
Earlier, the new head of the Operational Command of the Bundeswehr, Bernd Schutt, stated that the danger of military escalation with Russia on the north-eastern flank of NATO was high. Because of this, the presence of alliance ground troops in the region is important, he said. "That's why the issue of credible deterrence in this region is very important to me. The presence of ground troops plays a key role here," Schutt stressed.