Germany needs strong military recruitment, Scholz says in conscription debate

Nordic Summit

By Rachel More and Andreas Rinke

BERLIN/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Germany must find ways to convince people to sign up for a career in the military, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday, as the country looks at conscription as a possible way to boost its long-neglected defences in the face of tensions with Russia.

"Ultimately it's about how we can convince enough women and men to work in the Bundeswehr and find a job for themselves there," Scholz said during a visit to Sweden, which reintroduced conscription in 2017 following Russia's annexation of Crimea.

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius, a member of Scholz's Social Democrats, has tasked his ministry with exploring potential models for military conscription.

In Sweden, between 5,000-6,000 young men and women are selected for conscription each year but the government wants to increase that number to 10,000, which would mean about one in 10 youngsters will have to do the basic training.

The war in Ukraine prompted debate in Germany over reintroducing the system, as the Bundeswehr armed forces grapple with shrinking troop numbers at a time when Berlin has promised an unprecedented ramp-up in the nation's defences. Germany has not had conscription since 2011.

The Christian Democrats (CDU), Germany's main opposition party, has committed itself to reintroducing military service if it wins national elections next year.

Pistorius, whose ministry is yet to present its paper with proposed models, has previously described the Swedish system as a role model. Sweden trains conscripts but only uses as many volunteers as the professional army needs.

"No country has a perfect model and everybody respects different countries using different models for different historic reasons," Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said following his talks with Scholz.

"I think for us, this model is working well."

(Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke and Johan Ahlander, editing by William Maclean)