Even amid the champagne of the New Year celebrations, it did not go unnoticed that Bundeswehr Chief of Staff Eberhard Zron said the armed forces may fill vacant positions – such as IT and medical personnel – with foreign nationals.
Before delving into the potential consequences, let us first look at some numbers. Germany’s current defense expenditure is 1.2 percent of GDP and the country plans to reach the 2 percent NATO requirement by the year 2030. Fresh polls indicate that 15 percent of Germans agree with higher military spending and 17 percent are ready to fight to defend their country.
This 17 percent is among the lowest in Europe, with highs of 74 percent in Finland and 73 percent in Turkey. This also explains the position of the chief of staff: the majority of German politicians and citizens do not consider national defense a priority.
The trauma of two world wars may somewhat explain this, but the phenomenon is still a concern for the security of Europe as a whole. First, because such recruitment would obviously primarily drain the staff of the armed forces of Central European nations.
The training of qualified IT and medical staff for the military is an expensive proposition, but beyond the financial considerations, the German plan also has intelligence and counter-intelligence implications.
Enrolling large numbers of foreign citizens could cause major headaches for the counterintelligence services. Not primarily because these people would be inherently more susceptible to leak military secrets but because of so-called “false flag” recruitment by other intelligence services.
Medical staff – while normally not having access to the most sensitive military secrets – could still provide an enemy with valuable personal information. Members of IT staff are even more crucial — they can provide access codes to command systems or even steal military research worth billions.
But beyond these practical aspects, recruiting foreigners also sends a more fundamental message. It’s merely a matter of time and money before the downfall of any country that entrusts national security to mercenaries.
From this perspective, the staffing problems of the German armed forces and the proposed solution are further signs of the internal crisis in Western Europe.