Service at arms: Debate about compulsory military service – this is how other states do it

Service at arms: Debate about compulsory military service – this is how other states do it

The CDU advocates that the suspension of compulsory military service in Germany be gradually lifted. In some other NATO countries, compulsory military service is already in effect again – or is still in force.

Since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, there has been increasing discussion in Germany about reintroducing compulsory military service. After 55 years, it was suspended in July 2011 under the then Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (CSU).

Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) is currently having models of compulsory military service examined, including the Swedish conscription model, due to the changed security situation. The CDU federal party conference has now spoken out in favor of a similar concept.

But what does this model look like – and what does conscription look like among other NATO members? A selection:


After Sweden suspended conscription in 2010, it was reintroduced seven years later. Nevertheless, not all young men and women from one year group are drafted. After everyone initially receives a questionnaire from the muster authority, only some of them are invited to the muster. A selected group then receives offers for a service at the end. So it’s a kind of compulsory muster. In six to 15 months, the recruits receive basic military and leadership training.


In Denmark, compulsory military service currently applies to men aged 18 and over. Because there are enough interested parties, only part of a year group is called up. But that should change from 2026: The plan is for compulsory military service to be extended to women. Basic military service is also to be extended from four to eleven months.


In Greece there is compulsory military service for all men. It is currently twelve months in all branches of the armed forces. Those who serve at the borders only stay for nine months. This also applies to special units, such as the paratroopers or divers. There is also the option of community service, but this takes twice as long. Because of the shrinking population, Athens is planning voluntary military service for women.


In Turkey, conscription is mandatory by law for all men between the ages of 20 and 41. You must serve at least six months. For a payment of around 5,200 euros, the time can be shortened to four weeks. Evading military service is punishable by fines and imprisonment. In the past, the government has made it possible on several occasions for a limited period of time to completely buy one’s freedom from military service. There is no right to refuse military service.


In response to neighboring Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, Latvia gradually reintroduced military service: initially on a voluntary basis from mid-2023, and compulsory since the beginning of 2024. Men between the ages of 18 and 27 are drafted. Women can voluntarily complete the eleven-month military training. Alternative alternative service must be performed at a facility under the Ministry of Defense.

Source: Stern

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