Far from gaining new soldiers: More and more resignate from the European armies

Far from gaining new soldiers: More and more resignate from the European armies

By Ali Rıza Taşdelen

The drums of war are beating louder in Europe. Countries are trying to strengthen their armies. However, far from achieving their targets of increasing the number of soldiers, many countries are facing resignations. Young people are reluctant to join the military. Calls from NATO leaders for a Crusade-like mobilization against Russia are falling on deaf ears. Experts view this as a sign of resistance from the European public against the war that the European Union is waging against Russia.

Journalist Pierre Duval, in his article “Europe: soldiers and youth flee the military” on the observateurcontinental.fr, points to recent surveys indicating that the overwhelming majority of young people in EU countries are opposed to wars, increased military spending and foreign military operations.[1]

Young Europeans prefer jobs in the civilian sector

According to Vincenzo Bove, a professor of political science at the University of Warwick in England, “Considering the challenges related to military activities such as quality of life, relocation, international duties, uncertainty, and personal safety, offering very high salaries is necessary to persuade people to join the armed forces. Since this is not the case, young Europeans prefer jobs in the civilian sector.” Bove writes that the European armies are also facing a demographic problem due to the aging population. The British, Italian, and French armies are currently at about half the size they were 10 or 20 years ago.

The enlistment of migrants

As a solution, he suggests “the enlistment of migrants and granting of citizenship on the condition of serving for a few years” and adds: “Because you cannot force people to fight, and they will not accept the return of mandatory military service.” However, journalist Pierre Duval writes that “people of migrant origin are not interested in wearing military uniforms to fight in wars of the Westerns. Most migrants support Russia.”

Contrary to plans of the EU, maintaining existing forces and stopping the increasing resignations have become more important than recruiting new soldiers. As Politico writes, “It’s no longer so much about recruiting new soldiers as it is about persuading existing troops not to quit”.[2] Countries like France, Germany and the UK couldn’t reach their recruitment targets in 2023. Yet they have accelerated military spending and efforts to strengthen their defense to halt Russia’s advancement in Ukraine. Vincenzo Bove thinks that European armies are in a “panic mode” and “have doubled their efforts to recruit new soldiers in the face of Russia’s growing threat.”

The ideological gap between the society in general and the armed forces

Bove also says that “the ideological gap between the society in general and the armed forces has deepened in recent years. If you take a random sample of young Europeans, they are ideologically very distant from the sample of soldiers in terms of their visions, aspirations, and goals in life.” This ideological gap, according to Bove, stems from the ending of mandatory military service and the lack of contact between young people and the military institution, as most youths do not even know a single person serving in the military. Unlike in Türkiye, there is no notion of “camaraderie” in the armies in Europe.

The French Army will fall short of its recruitment targets

French Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu announced a plan on March 18 to curb the increasing resignations in the French army. The goal is to “increase the average length of service by one year for officers by 2027.” The plan includes simplifying human resources, compensation, mortgage loans, housing, equipment, support for spouses, social benefits, career development, allowances, guidance on transitioning to the private sector, etc.

Lecornu stated, “Given the difficulties we face in retaining and attracting soldiers, we need to go further and faster. … We can talk about equipment at NATO meetings, but now we’re also talking about the level of retention (of military personnel).” Referring to the US and the UK, he added: “These discussions are now taking place in all capitals, in all democracies with professional armies that do not have compulsory military service.” He emphasized, “Training, disciplining and retaining the right people have become the biggest issue for a professional army without compulsory military service.”

According to Le Figaro, the French Army will fall short of its recruitment targets by 2,000 to 2,500 for the first time in the past decade at the end of this year. The French Army needs to recruit 16,000 new soldiers every year to ensure generational renewal.

Euronews in French reports that the UK has also recently admitted to struggling to recruit new soldiers. According to the UK Defence Journal, last year, the UK Ministry of Defence had 5,800 more personnel leaving than joining and could not meet its annual recruitment targets since 2010. According to a recent survey by the British YouGov polling and research organization, 38% of the English under the age of 40 say they would refuse to serve in the armed forces if a new world war broke out and 30% say they would not serve even if their country were under a threat of invasion.

Situation in Germany and Poland

Politico writes that the German government aims to increase the number of armed forces to 203,000 by the early 2030s, but recruitment is going very slowly. In the annual report submitted to the German parliament on March 12, 2024, it is stated that the number of personnel in the Bundeswehr decreased to 181,514, with approximately 1,537 soldiers resigning in 2023. This trend has been continuing in recent years.

The Polish government also announced a 20% increase in military salaries to maintain the current number of soldiers. The minimum monthly salary will increase from €1,150 to €1,394. The number of soldiers is expected to increase to 220,000 by the end of the year. The weekly Do Rzeczy magazine published in Warsaw wrote, referring to the Polish Defense Minister Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz: “The goal is to increase the number to 300,000. However, even the increase in salary does not motivate an average Polish to shed blood on Ukrainian soil.”

[1] https://www.observateurcontinental.fr/?module=articles&action=view&id=5809

[2] https://www.politico.eu/article/nato-russia-ukraine-war-defense-france-germany-soldiers-army

United World International

Independent analytical center where political scientists and experts in international relations from various countries exchange their opinions and views.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


May 2024