The German army enlists foreigners: opportunity or heresy?

(To Avv. Francesco Fameli)

The news of the interest shown by Germany for the recruitment of foreigners in the ranks of its army passed almost unnoticed a few months ago (it was the end of the 2018).

The Chief of Staff Eberhard Zorn and parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces Hans-Peter Bartels have expressed with conviction the idea, pointing out the need for "Look in all directions", to satisfy a real "Need staff (...) in a period of shortage of skilled workers".

In particular, we look at European citizens with specialized training (doctors, engineers and even computer scientists).

But what is the situation facing the Bundeswehr today? And what are (and what could they be) German targets in the short and long term? For what interests us most, could Italy follow the German example or should it defend itself against the possible "brain theft"?

1. The situation of the German army today

It is certainly no mystery that national armies today live, at least in Europe, a phase of "vocational" crisis: the transition to professionalism, so to speak, and the abolition of compulsory military service (now a constant in the vast majority of countries) they have determined the formation of more specialized armies, certainly, but also much less numerous and - what is more serious -, at least lately, endowed with scarce attractiveness on the labor market.

The German situation is no exception to this trend. After the military service in 2011, the Bundeswehr is today well below the two hundred thousand units. Rising from the rubble of the Second World War, reunited in the 1990, the German army played a leading role in NATO during the Cold War. Moreover, in the event of an attack by the USSR, the Teutonic forces should have represented the vanguard of the Western bloc. Equipped for this with the most advanced equipment, trained and supported by the United States - which in Germany boasts a large number of military bases -, the German armed forces have never had to confront themselves in conventional war scenarios, acting rather in the shadows, in support of the allied secret services.

In this context, the reduction of ranks (now down to around 182.000 men) and the poor appeal of the currency for German citizens (a constant in all states characterized by a strong economy) have led to re-launching a solution that has already been recurrently proposed in the recent past (most recently in the so-called White Book of 2016). It is undeniable, then, that a decisive push in this sense came from the threat trumpiana of a progressive disengagement of stars and stripes from the old continent, in the absence of greater economic contributions from European allies.

2. A look to the future

This is the context in which the German option for opening up its army to Europeans with foreign citizenship is placed.

The proposal would be addressed as initially said only to qualified personnel, but the well-informed report of a possible extension of this project well beyond these narrow borders, up to including even less specialized "labor". Berlin essentially looks at immigrants in Germany: according to estimates, there is a pool of well over 600.000 people between the 18 and the 40 years, including around Polish 250.000, Italian 185.000 and Romanian 155.000.

On a strictly legal level, it would certainly be necessary to provide for the reform of Soldatengesetz, the German federal law that regulates the regulation and regulation of military personnel. Moreover, the art. 37, which establishes and regulates the fundamental requirements for recruitment, in its version currently in force establishes as a prerequisite for entry into the armed forces the possession of German citizenship and the oath of allegiance to the democratic constitutional order.

Not an insurmountable obstacle, no doubt. The stated intent, after all, is to thicken the ranks of the army of about 20.000 units in the coming 7 years.

Having said this, as regards official statements and short-term resolutions, it remains to be seen what the Bundeswehr's real objectives are in a broader perspective.

It is legitimate to ask, in particular, whether Germany simply aims to create a sort of "foreign legion" within its troops - on the long-forgotten colonialist model experienced in the United Kingdom, France, Spain and more recently. in a very different form, also dusted off in Australia - or, if not, would you rather give life to a first nucleus of European army under the wing of your black eagle in a yellow field.

3. The Italian position

The situation of the German armed forces is certainly emblematic and can be taken as an example of the state in which the national armies are today. And Italy is by no means an exception to the picture outlined above.

Moreover, the same German idea of ​​enlarging the number of recruitment requirements in its armed forces, so as to include other European citizens as well, was proposed almost twenty years ago by the then Minister of Defense Antonio Martino.

In an interview with Daily Telegraph resumed on the pages of La Repubblica del 21 in February 2002 - among other things, the article in question is still available online -, probably with foresight, Martino affirmed that "One day (...) we may be forced to have an army of foreigners", prefiguring the establishment of foreign units on the model of the French Foreign Legion and the British Gurkhas.

Compared to the German drawing, of course, only a purely embryonic and less developed idea. One looked, in essence, at the immigrant population ("Why not enlist a brigade of Albanians?", the Minister asked himself, proposing enrollment as an accelerated means of attaining Italian citizenship. Moreover, our country lived in the 2002 that moment of transition marked by the abandonment of compulsory conscription (the same Martino was the well-known supporter and he anticipated it from the 2007 to the 2005), that Germany, as mentioned, was found to face a decade later.

Given the same context - at least nationally - and given that both solutions have remained, until now, only on paper, it cannot fail to notice that the Teutonic perspective appears more focused and, if you like, worthy of attention, even for the its possible negative reflections.

It is clear, in fact, that in the event of its implementation, the ranks of the Bundeswehr would be replenished after having scoured European universities in search of the best profiles, which would thus be annexed to the ranks of the old adversary. In other words, it could start, even in a clear and open way, a real market of large-scale specialized labor among European countries, which in all probability would see us among the major contributors, given the good training provided - whatever may be said. , compared to the European average - from our universities and considering the limited opportunities to get a job well paid in a short time, after graduation, especially in the South.


What has been said in extreme synthesis suggests some final considerations.

It seems legitimate to ask, in particular, whether the possibility feared repeatedly in recent months by Germany constitutes a heresy (compared to traditional national armies) or an opportunity. The blindfold of an idealistic and perhaps excessively romantic patriotism in which even those who write for large tracts can be recognized from the eyes, certainly the army dogma totally formed by indigenous citizens has never been strictly observed (after all, the centuries, if not the millennia, they tell us of armed forces also, and sometimes only, mercenaries), and if the national values ​​of loyalty and loyalty to the Republic must undoubtedly be the beacon that must guide the formation of any military order, it is undeniable that in the contemporary age the opening up to foreign personnel (a qualified species) constitutes an opportunity, and not a form of blasphemy, for modern professional armies.

The army, as well as cutting-edge and efficient weapons, is made up of men. And indeed, first of all of men. And we can't see why our country should not be able to draw on the best foreign professional figures, while other states, like Germany, try to benefit from our "brains on the run".

And if indeed Germany was thereby preparing a first nucleus of the future European army - moreover, it is well to point out, with the consent of France -, we could really consider it desirable that the formation of this new transnational armed force should see the light under the aegis of other countries and, paradoxically, thanks to our more qualified workforce, perhaps formed by ourselves?

"Don't copy from anyone, but if you have to copy, copy from the best"Someone once said.

It seems to me that, in this case, it can be done. But let's do it right.

Photo: Bundeswehr / US Marine Corps