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Military reforms could alienate soldiers, Bundeswehr commissioner warns

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Military reforms could alienate soldiers, Bundeswehr commissioner warns
Photo: DPA
08:38 CEST+02:00
Germany's parliamentary watchdog for the armed forces on Wednesday criticised Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg’s plans to streamline the military, saying that “clear cutting” Bundeswehr facilities would alienate soldiers from the rest of German society.

In an interview with radio broadcaster HR-Info, the Bundestag's liaison to the armed forces, Hellmut Königshaus, said that Guttenberg’s plans threatened the Bundeswehr's social standing.

“The Bundeswehr must remain anchored in society,” he told the broadcaster. “And that means that the Bundeswehr remains visible and not like a distant, exotic Fata Morgana.”

If military bases are consolidated, many soldiers could be stationed far from their homes, he added, saying that not only financial issues should be considered when it comes to reforms.

“Behind this are many people whose interests must be protected,” he said.

On Monday Guttenberg shared his proposed reforms with leading members of Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right coalition in the hopes winning support for streamlining the Bundeswehr.

The Defence Minister announced his intention to cut troops numbers from 252,000 soldiers to 163,500 and effectively abolish conscription by mid-2011. Guttenberg said, however, that he intended to keep military service anchored in the German constitution.

Since young men will no longer be called to compulsory military service, Guttenberg said he would instead push for a “trial” period of between 12 and 23 months, which would serve as a recruitment pool for men and women interested in joining the professional army.

Guttenberg said he wanted a smaller, more streamlined, efficient and modern Bundeswehr, which would actually be strengthened by increased competence.

But his ideas have been met with resistance among his own conservatives, who traditionally support a strong military.

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