UK Looks to Reinstate Mandatory Military Service As Russian Threat Looms

( – As the United Kingdom approaches its general election, the Conservative government has announced plans to reinstate national service in an attempt to boost its shrinking armed forces. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the plans to bring back the “national spirit” by making national service mandatory for 18-year-olds. Should the Conservatives win the election in July, the scheme would run at an annual cost of roughly £2.5 billion, or $3.19 billion.

In January 2024, Downing Street ruled out bringing back military conscription despite calls from Baltic nations to reinstate it in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Under the planned national service, however, youths would not be required to join the armed forces and could instead do community work, which would include the emergency services. Conscientious objectors would be expected to do unpaid community work at weekends.

Sunak’s proposal to reintroduce national service has sparked a heated debate. While he argues that it will curb crime and unemployment among youths, Scotland’s Greens have labeled the plan as “immoral” and “desperate.” The Green Party of England and Wales, known for its pacifist stance, has also criticized the plan, calling it “removed from reality.” Party co-leader Carla Denyer emphasized that young people are more concerned about housing affordability and university fees than military service.

The Labour Party, the Conservatives leading opposition, commented that Sunak’s plan was just another “unaffordable” scheme coming from a party that has “already crashed the economy.” A party spokesman claimed that the Conservatives had already “hollowed out” the country’s armed forces to their smallest size since the time of Napoleon.

Following some confusion about what would happen to individuals who opt out of the mandatory service, the Conservatives clarified that no one would go to prison for not participating. They warned, however, that parents of 18-year-olds would be fined if their legally adult offspring refused to do the mandatory service.

The policy was reportedly only known about by Sunak’s closest advisers before it was publicly revealed, to the surprise of several conservatives. The document laying out the scheme heavily stresses that “growing international threats” such as China and Russia raise the need to boost the country’s military.

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