The unthinkable has happened !
German military authorities are reportedly considering plans to recruit citizens from other European countries to strengthen the armed forces of Germany as they struggle to fill their ranks.
Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen intends to recruit young Poles, Italians and Romanians residing in the country to serve in the German military, or Bundeswehr, local Der Spiegel magazine reported Thursday, citing a classified ministry document.
According to the document, nearly 255,000 Poles, 185,000 Italians and 155,000 Romanians, aged between 18 and 40, reside in Germany, and if even 10 percent of them would be interested in the Bundeswehr, that could generate 50,000 new applicants.
The German military has intensified its recruitment efforts as part of a wider measure following the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis in 2014. Last year, Germany said it would increase the size of its armed forces to 198,000 active soldiers by 2024 from 179,000.
The German Defense Ministry, the report adds, plans to limit the group of potential recruits to those who have already lived in Germany for several years and speak fluent German.
Such limits, it underlines, is meant to minimize concern among other European Union governments that Germany is trying to lure their potential soldiers by offering them better pay.
The report, however, did not mention if the foreign recruits would serve alongside Germans in regular regiments, or would form their own units similar to the French Foreign Legion.
It further pointed out that in efforts to help draw new recruits, the German military is also targeting native youngsters, as a military career remains a sensitive choice more than 70 years after the Second World War.
In July, President Donald Trump of the United States told a NATO summit that Washington could withdraw support for the military alliance if Europeans did not boost their defense budgets.
The report on Germany’s military plan came a day after Trump and his wife, Melania, traveled to Germany to visit American troops stationed in the country.
Trump was on his way back to Washington from Iraq, where he also stopped briefly to visit US military forces in the country at an air force base. Trump met no state officials during the Christmas holiday visits.
In recent months, the German Defense Ministry has been sounding out defense attaches in other EU countries about its recruitment plan with “very different results,” Der Spiegel said. Eastern European countries are particularly worried about the impact on their own recruitment, the paper added.
It further quoted Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz as saying that military service was “closely tied to nationality.”