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The Minister of defence of Germany introduced draft large-scale reform of the armed forces
Material posted : Administrator Publication date: 12-09-2010

The Minister of defence of Germany Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg on Monday, August 23, officially introduced the military experts of the ruling coalition CDU/CSU and the FDP concept of reforming the armed forces. It is already clear that the Bundeswehr is on the verge of the biggest reforms in its history. Moreover, if the Ministry of defence will be able to implement his plan, it will lead to cardinal changes in domestic and foreign policy of Germany. Not surprisingly, the reform project has caused acute controversy. Even in government circles there is no unity on this issue.

In General, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has presented politicians of the ruling coalition five different models of the reform of the Bundeswehr. He advocated the so-called fourth model. It envisages a reduction in the number of personnel in as many as one-third, from 250 000 to 163 500 troops and temporary suspension of recruitment. Temporary suspension means that, in practice, the call is actually cancelled, however, the possibility of resumption will remain enshrined in the Constitution. As he noted zu Guttenberg, nobody knows how the world will look like 30 years from now, and Germany should be able, if necessary, to increase the strength of the Bundeswehr at the expense of recruits.

Instead the call will be entered volunteer service for a period of 12 to 23 months. Every year the service will be able to do 7,500 volunteers - both men and women. The reform fits into the announced by the government of Angela Merkel in June of this year a large-scale program to reduce government spending and reduce the budget deficit. A fundamental restructuring of armed forces needs to help save up to 2014 of about 8.3 billion euros. Meanwhile, Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg said specifically that money is not important for him and that the future of the Bundeswehr must not be subject to "state offices."

Most importantly, according to the Minister of defence, is to create a modern army, which would be consistent with the requirements of the time. The Bundeswehr will become smaller, but more mobile, more professional, more efficient. Zu Guttenberg earlier repeatedly said that the command structure is outdated and still bear the imprint of the "cold war". Meanwhile, the experience of the last decades has shown that the tasks of the armed forces has changed. If earlier the army was focused on protecting the territory than was due to her large number, now the armed forces increasingly operate abroad within the framework of international peacekeeping operations. The reform of the German soldiers will be able to participate more actively in foreign missions.

We offer zu Gutenberg convert radical. It is not surprising that they meet a lot of objections and doubts, and not only from the opposition but also among the conservatives of the people's parties CDU and CSU, for which mandatory military service is a question of identity. Compulsory conscription was introduced in Germany on 1 April 1957. It was emphasized that soldiers are citizens in uniform. The call was assigned the most important function of communication between society and the armed forces. For this reason, the position of the Minister of defence of Germany since it is civilian, not military. In memory was still fresh from the sad experience of the Weimar Republic, when the Reichswehr was a kind of "state within a state". What eventually led to the alienation of the German army from society, well known to all.

So, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg essentially proposes to create a small professional army, that is, to abandon the principle of "citizens in uniform". That call will remain enshrined in the Constitution, is of little consolation - it is obvious that in practice it will not be simple. Conservatives cherish the relationship between society and the army will break. Ready not all. The head of the CSU, is a member of zu Guttenberg, the Prime Minister of Bavaria Horst Seehofer has repeatedly spoken out against the abolition of the compulsory military service. With criticized his predecessor zu Guttenberg at the head of the Ministry of defence Franz-Josef Jung, who said that the intentions of the current Minister, if necessary, again to "revive" call utopian. Re-enter the call after its cancellation, said the former Minister, politically it would be impossible.

Moreover, the representatives of the CDU and CSU recognize the need for reform and savings. Thus, many members of the conservative camp tend to another, a compromise of the model: to reduce the size of the Bundeswehr to 205 thousand people, of which 25 thousand are to serve the call. Put forward other proposals, for example, establish the number of military personnel and contractors to 150 thousand people, plus it 25 thousand recruits and 25 thousand volunteers.

The military also Express their doubts. First of all, where will those 7,500 volunteers per year. According to Financial Times Deutschland, General inspector of the Bundeswehr (the highest military rank in the German army) Volker Vickers (Volker Wieker) in an internal report pointed to "certain risks" of such a decision. "No one can say with certainty exactly how many young people take advantage of this offer", - said the General. In his opinion, voluntary service needs two or three years to work in test mode, before you can assess whether it was effective. In addition, you must work to ensure that the military service was appealing to young people - there are concerns that labour market the Bundeswehr can do to lose to other employers. And although the German armed forces have already started a kind of PR offensive by opening its own channel on YouTube, this may not be sufficient.

The social Democrats, for their part, criticized the proposal zu Guttenberg criticized. According to the military expert of the SPD Rainer Arnold, the reduction of the Bundeswehr for more than 40 thousand people will lead to the fact that he will not be able to fulfil their Federal duties. In the SPD believe that the size of the Bundeswehr must not be less than 200 thousand people, 25 thousand should serve the call. At the same time, the social Democrats support the idea of voluntary military service, but note that 7,500 volunteers a year is too little in order to create the necessary reserves, and propose to increase the quota to 20 or 30 thousand. In the SPD, also fear that a radical reform, coupled with the abolition of conscription would transform the Bundeswehr from a national army into an expeditionary force focused on foreign operations.

There is another important aspect. The abolition of compulsory military service would necessarily entail the abolition of the alternative service, which are currently about 90 thousand young people employed mainly in the social sector. They work in clinics, nursing homes, care for the sick and disabled. The Minister for family, elderly and youth Kristina Schroeder stated that we need to keep at least a third of that number - about 35 thousand. With the abolition of conscription, alternative service, according to Schroeder, as well as military service, should be held on a voluntary basis, but it should be made attractive for young people. How to implement it, the Minister has not explained. For their part, many young people admit that if not for compulsory conscription, alternative service they would never go.

We should not forget that the downsizing of the Bundeswehr will lead to the closure of many barracks, collapsing infrastructure, and in the end may lose thousands of civilians. And, perhaps most importantly: it still remains unknown how and what will be reduced. According to Bild, the worst will have land forces: their number decreased by 40 thousand people, up to 54500 soldiers. This is with regard to personnel, and how will decrease and be disposed of technique, there is almost no information. After the reform, according to the Bild, the Bundeswehr could remain three tank battalions of 44 units each. Military transport helicopters CH-53 will be transferred to the air force. For its part Tagesschau adds that, according to the plans of the Ministry of defence, the Bundeswehr 330 heavy tanks Leopard 2 (data for 2005) will be 150 - this is almost three times less than in neighboring Switzerland.

Anyway, nothing is decided. The question of the reform of the Bundeswehr is so complex that the ruling coalition has postponed its discussion until the autumn party congresses of the CDU and CSU, which will be held in October and November. What model of reform of the Bundeswehr is ultimately adopted, we can only guess. In any case, it seems that the previous he had not.


Alexey Demyanov



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