Defence chief urges end to German conscription

German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg talks to the media after a meeting with members of the  Bundestag, 8/23/10.

From Gerrit Wiesmann, the Financial Times:   The German government is trying to cut its defence budget by ending national service and cutting the army by a third to 165,000 troops.

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the defence minister, urged an end to conscription as he briefed colleagues about cutting €8.3bn ($10.5bn) from planned defence spending by 2014, according to officials in Berlin.

Although Germany spends less on defence than big Nato allies, notably France and the UK, officials said that ending conscription would allow Berlin to commit more than the present limit of 8,000 troops to foreign missions. …

Mr zu Guttenberg has won some backing from Angela Merkel, the chancellor, who said the parties had to “think anew” about military conscription, introduced in 1957 to help guard against invasion by the Warsaw pact.

One official said that Ms Merkel’s stance would allow her to claim part of the credit if the reform went through but also gave her enough room to bow to the will of pro-conscription forces in her coalition with the Free Democrats. …

The end of the cold war brought into question the purpose of conscripts. They were legally barred from serving abroad, and so were of little use to Nato- or EU-led missions in the Balkans or Afghanistan. …

But national service remains popular among generals for providing recruits for the professional force, and many social charities have come to rely on a stream of conscientious objectors forced into a year’s voluntary work.  (photo: AP)

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