Should young people be required to serve in the Bundeswehr again in the future? The Defense Minister is currently looking into this. The SPD leader has a clear preference.

SPD leader Lars Klingbeil has spoken out in favor of continuing to rely on voluntary service instead of compulsory service when recruiting Bundeswehr soldiers. “I think we should try it voluntarily by making the Bundeswehr even more attractive,” said Klingbeil in an interview with the German Press Agency. If we increase the attractiveness and appreciation of the soldier’s profession in society, this will lead to more people joining the Bundeswehr voluntarily. “I am firmly convinced of that and that is why the coercion is something that I just don’t see that we should decide on politically.”

Instead, Klingbeil advocated creating more incentives for young people to do voluntary military service. As examples, he mentioned the possibility of getting a driver’s license free of charge or completing a course of study in the Bundeswehr. “There are a lot of good arguments for the troops and these are the things that I would put in the foreground.”

The Bundeswehr is to be increased from the current 182,000 to 203,000 soldiers by 2031. Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) is currently considering reactivating compulsory military service, which was suspended 13 years ago, in order to address the personnel shortage. Last Thursday he announced that he would make a proposal in three to four weeks.

Klingbeil said he had “deep confidence” in Pistorius’ review. A social debate must follow and then a political decision must be made. “I have just stated my idea, but I am going into the debate without ideological blinders and without being stubborn,” he emphasized. “The focus must be: What is best for our country and what is best for the security of the country.”

During the Cold War, the Bundeswehr’s conscription army included almost 500,000 soldiers until the fall of the Berlin Wall. After the reunification of Germany the number fell continuously. In 2011, conscription was suspended under CSU Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. At its party conference at the beginning of May, the CDU decided to “gradually” reverse the decision.