Germany plans a new law to increase the number of soldiers

German Army

German Army

Photo: Associated Press

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius on Wednesday unveiled plans for new legislation to help fill the depleted ranks of the armed forces to bolster the country's defense capabilities.

Pistorius has said the proposed bill would allow the government to send letters to all 18-year-olds, about 400,000 each year, asking about their willingness and ability to serve in the military, reports AP.

By law, those who receive the letter must complete the questions. The army would then invite those interested to undergo a medical examination, and select the most qualified to serve in the army for a period of 6-23 months.

Speaking to reporters in Berlin, Pistorius explained that threat levels have changed from what they were a few years ago.

"Russia has been waging a war against Ukraine for two and a half years, it is not only questioning the rules-based international order, it is destroying it. This is a new threat situation," Pistorius declared.

The campaign is part of efforts to increase the number of active forces to 203,000 from the current figure of just under 181,000. Germany had over 500,000 troops during the Cold War.

If the bill passes, the new military service would still be voluntary and a far cry from conscription for young men, which was suspended in Germany in 2011 after 55 years. Since then, there has been no compulsory military or civil service in the country.

Germany's conscription act still stipulates that compulsory military service for men can be reinstated if parliament declares a state of defense emergency.

Women turning 18 would also accept letters, according to Pistorius, but would not be required to respond, as Germany's constitution does not provide for compulsory service for them.

After Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, leading to one of Europe's most brutal wars since World War II, calls have steadily grown in Germany to reintroduce some form of conscription to better prepare for possible future wars.