Mandatory conscription and subway stations as bunkers: Germany outlines wartime plans

Jun 9, 2024, 11:01 AM

A German armed forces solider during the "National Guardian" military exercise at the Bundeswehr's ...

A German armed forces solider during the "National Guardian" military exercise at the Bundeswehr's tank training grounds on April 18. (Sean Gallup, Getty Images)

(Sean Gallup, Getty Images)

(CNN) Conscription, rationing, and subway stations turned into bunkers. For the first time since the Cold War, Germany has updated its plans should conflict erupt in Europe, with ministers citing the threat posed by Russia.

The 67-page document, known as the Framework Directive for Overall Defense and released this week, envisions the complete transformation of daily life for German citizens in the event of war.

It is a further sign of how Germany, which has had a staunchly anti-militaristic stance since World War II, has been forced to adapt its security and military policy in the wake of Moscow’s war on Ukraine.

Under wartime conditions, mandatory conscription into the army would be reinstated and skilled laborers aged over 18 could be made to work certain jobs including in bakeries and post offices – as well as being prevented from quitting their jobs. Doctors, psychologists, nurses and vets may also be repurposed in military and civil service roles.

Rationing would also be brought in. In the event of dwindling food supplies, the government would stockpile food to provide citizens with “one hot meal a day” for an undisclosed period of time, according to the document. Federal reserves would include foods like rice, pulses and condensed milk.

Other key resources such as petrol and oil could also be rationed with coupons if they become scarce.

It also outlines civil protection measures including transforming underground stations into makeshift bunkers and preparing hospitals for an influx of patients.

Unveiling the plans, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said it was necessary for her country to arm itself better in the face of Russian aggression.

“The Russian aggression has completely changed the security situation in Europe – first and foremost among our eastern EU and NATO partners such as in the Baltic States, but also due to hybrid threats such as cyber attacks, espionage and disinformation here,” she said.

“In addition to all the protective measures of our security authorities and military deterrence and defense, we must therefore also further strengthen civil protection.”

The document warns that Germany’s hospitals would have to prepare to treat large numbers of patients over a long period of time.

It adds that, if war breaks out, the German population cannot count on “government-organized help” to be provided immediately, due to the possibility “of damage occurring simultaneously at a large number of locations.”

Therefore, it says, civilians must be ready to help themselves first, as well as provide help to neighbors where possible.

Basements, underground car parks and subway stations should be used as temporary bunkers, the document states, adding that attacks could occur with “extremely short warning times.”

Germany’s broadcast and digital media will be required by law to share important government information immediately. As Germany’s state broadcaster, Deutsche Welle would be legally obliged to provide the government with information regarding broadcasting times for the announcement of new laws, regulations and updates.

Authorities will have the power to evacuate civilians to certain areas – although families should not be separated, the document states.

While German weather services are expected to continue even in the event of an emergency, authorities could ban or restrict the publication of forecasts.

‘Ready for war by 2029’

Germany’s updated wartime plans come as Russian President Vladimir Putin presents an ongoing security threat to Europe. His war in Ukraine is well into its second year, with no conclusive end in sight and fears that the conflict could spill over into a wider war involving NATO.

On Wednesday, German Defensive Minister Pistorius was quoted by newspaper Der Spiegel as saying: “We must be ready for war by 2029.”

Pistorius added, “We must not believe that Putin will stop at Ukraine’s borders when he gets that far.”

Similarly, voices from within the British government have expressed the need to be war-ready. Former UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace in February stated that “war is coming” to Britain by the end of the decade, as he called for greater investment in defense.

In recent weeks Russia has issued some of its starkest warnings to the West yet, in light of some of Ukraine’s allies giving Kyiv permission to use their weapons to strike limited targets inside Russian territory.

Putin on Wednesday described the provision of Western weaponry as a “very serious and dangerous step,” which he said could result in Moscow arming its enemies.

The Russian leader specifically pointed to a breakdown in Russia’s relations with Germany, claiming that the appearance of German tanks in Ukraine had resulted in an “moral, ethical shock,” because “the attitude towards [Germany] in Russian society had always been very good, very good.”

“Now, when they say that some more missiles will appear that will strike targets on Russian territory, this, of course, is ultimately destroying Russo-German relations,” he added.

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Mandatory conscription and subway stations as bunkers: Germany outlines wartime plans