Recent comments from top military officials have sparked rumours about what could happen if NATO goes to war against Russia. Questions about the restart of a military conscription in the UK have concerned young people across the political spectrum. General Sir Patrick Sanders, Britain’s most senior army officer, raised concerns in January about the adequacy of the British military’s size to effectively respond to potential future conflicts. Former Chief General Lord Dannatt told The Times that numbers had reduced from 102,000 in 2006 to 74,000 today and were still falling fast.  The Government is facing the challenge of balancing its defence needs with the realities of resource allocation and public support for military interventions. Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has declared that we are moving from a “post-war to a pre-war world.”

Sanders alleged that Moscow plans on “defeating our systems and way of life” and that therefore, British citizens should be “trained and equipped” to fight in a potential war with Russia. This fuelled talk of conscription, a system which legally requires certain groups to join the armed forces. 

In January 1916, amidst the First World War, a law called the Military Service Act mandated compulsory military service for all unmarried men aged 18 to 41. The Badger asked students on campus for their thoughts on the potential for war and conscription. One student expressed that “it’s hypocritical to go to war from an offense perspective, but I can understand if we are responding to Russian aggressions.” On conscription, they continued “the military is small so I understand the need for civilian recruitment”, however [I think] it should be completely voluntary.”

A recent YouGov poll revealed a significant portion of young people would be hesitant to join the military in the face of potential conflict. Nearly two in five (38%) respondents under 40 indicated they would decline to serve in a new global war. This reluctance extends to more dire scenarios, with 30% stating they wouldn’t participate even if their nation was under imminent attack. Though direct UK participation in a war seems to remain unlikely however, General Sanders warns that it would require a “whole of nation undertaking”.

Photo by Filip Andrejevic


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