Why are European armies struggling to recruit soldiers?

European countries’ efforts to strengthen their armies in the face of the increased threat from Russia have clashed against young Europeans’ unwillingness to join the armed forces.


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has pushed European countries to increase their military spending and strengthen their defence, as they scramble to reverse the shrinking of their armies that has occurred over the past decade or so.

But their efforts have met a huge challenge: a lack of recruits willing to join their military forces.

Despite new investment and a recent recruitment push, Germany recently announced that its troop numbers fell slightly last year. The country’s defence ministry said earlier this month that its army – the Bundeswehr – shrank by about 1,500 troops in 2023, for a total of around 181,500 men and women by the end of the year. The Bundeswehr’s plan is to increase its ranks to 203,000 troops by 2031.

The UK also recently admitted it’s struggling to find recruits, with the country’s Ministry of Defence saying that 5,800 more people left the forces than joined them in 2023. The UK Defence Journal writes that the army has not met its recruitment targets every year since 2010.

“The problem is one that all European countries share – including France, Italy, Spain,” Vincenzo Bove, professor of political science at Warwick University in UK, told Euronews. “I don’t think there’s one country that’s spared from it.”

According to Bove, it’s unclear when exactly attracting recruits became a problem for European armies. “From my understanding, it started at least over 10 years ago in countries like the UK,” Bove said. “In the US, it started at least 20 years ago.”

What’s certain is that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has added pressure on European countries to solve the issue. But why are European countries struggling to recruit soldiers?

1. Young people’s values have changed

According to Bove, the ideological distance between society at large and military forces has gotten wider in recent years.

“If you take a random sample of young Europeans, they are ideologically very far from a sample of soldiers from the same country in terms of how they see society, their aspirations, what they want to do,” Bove said. “And this distance is growing over time.”

Bove mentioned that recent surveys have shown that young civilians are overwhelmingly against wars, against increasing spending on the military and against military operations abroad; they are also more individualistic and less patriotic than those serving in the military forces.

While there’s no clear explanation for why this gap is getting wider, Bove said this might be related to the end of conscription and the fact that young people are no longer exposed to the military, with most of them not even knowing someone working in the armed forces.

Dr Sophy Antrobus, Research Fellow at the Freeman Air and Space Institute at King’s College London, agreed with Bove, telling Euronews that the smaller the forces get, the less civilians actually see them. “In most parts of the country [the UK], you hardly see any people in uniform, there’s not that awareness of the military as an available career.”

2. Unappealing salary

Another reason is that working in the military has become a job like any other, Bove said, and the armed forces are competing with the private sector to get recruits – but they’re at a disadvantage.

“Because of the challenges in the military sector, the quality of life, relocations, international assignments, uncertainty and the possibility of dying, you need to pay very high salaries to convince people to apply and join the armed forces,” Bove said. “Given that they don’t, young Europeans would rather accept a job in the civilian sector.”

Talking about the UK specifically, Antrobus – who served in the Royal Air Forces for 20 years, including in Iraq and Afghanistan – added that there isn’t been much investment in the army, and the state of accommodation for the armed forces “is pretty bad,” she said. 

“Application times for getting in the armed forces are also quite long too, and the younger generations – particularly now – expect things to happen quickly. If there’s a job that comes out in the public sector in the meantime, that’s a more attractive option than waiting around for the army to give you an option,” she said.

3. The demographic decline

European armed forces are also struggling to find potential applicants as the population of the continent is ageing and shrinking. 

Bove argues that the size of the armed forces has already decreased to adapt to this change, with the British, Italian and French armies, for example, now being “pretty much half the size it used to be 10 years or 20 years ago.” 


What a smaller pool of applicants might mean for European armies now is that the quality of recruits accepted might not be up to the same strict standards armed forces have imposed for decades – which could in turn allow for dodgy individuals like neo-Nazi sympathisers to slip in.

According to Antrobus, there’s also a problem of “health and fitness” with young people. In the US, she said, there are more people in the age group between 17 and 24 who are largely unfit, with obesity being a big issue. If this trend continues, the armies will have nobody to recruit by 2035-2040.”

What future for the European armies?

European armies are a bit in “panic mode,” Bove said, as they scramble to find new recruits in the face of the increased threat from Moscow.

 “Immigration could be the answer,” Bove said, citing that countries like Spain, France and Portugal are already considering ways for immigrants to join the army and get citizenship after a few years in the forces.

“That’s probably the best way forward,” Bove said. “Because you can’t force people to fight for you and join the armed forces, and people are not going accept a return of conscription.” 


“It’s an intractable problem, to be honest,” Antrobus said. “It all starts with the politics, the political will and interest.” A solution to European armies’ recruitment process, Antrobus said, would involve things like “making the services more attractive, pay a bit better, certainly improving living standards – and it’s just not high enough in the political agenda compared to the cost of living and the economy.”

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How ‘Myanmar Witness’ proved a deadly air strike denied by state-owned medias

A number of photos and videos that circulated on social media and were picked up by pro-democracy media outlets show the aftermath of an air strike on the village of Ka Nan, in the west of Myanmar on January 7, 2024. While the state television outlet claimed that reports of the air strike were “fake news”, a visual investigation published by “Myanmar Witness” documented the attack and proved the Myanmar Air Force’s involvement. Seventeen civilians are believed to have been killed.

Issued on:

6 min

A civil war between the ruling junta and armed ethnic groups has been raging in Myanmar since the military coup that took place three years ago on February 1, 2021. Human rights organisations have repeatedly denounced the Myanmar Air Force’s bombing of civilian infrastructures like churches and schools – but these air strikes continue. 

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However, these air strikes are rarely as well documented as the strike that took place on January 7, 2024 in Ka Nan. The Three Brotherhood Alliance, made up of a number of ethnic groups, has, since November 7, controlled this village located in western Myanmar near the Indian border. Since October, the alliance has been carrying out a counter-offensive and taken back several strategic areas from the Myanmar Army.  

Images of the attack on Ka Nan and lists of the names of the civilians killed started to circulate on social media in pro-democracy groups on January 7, 2024.

A photo of some of the destruction resulting from the air strike carried out by the Myanmar Army on January 7, 2024 in Ka Nan, Myanmar. The image was posted the same day on the Telegram channel of the humanitarian group “Free Burma Rangers”. © Free Burma Rangers © Free Burma Rangers


State television outlet MRTV claimed that reports of the attack were nothing but “fake news” shared by “subversive media outlets”. 

Investigators from Myanmar Witness were able to use images and videos of the attack posted online to document with precision how it unfolded. They attribute the attack to the Myanmar Army in a report published on January 30, 2024. Myanmar Witness is a project run through the ”Centre for Information Resilience”, a UK-based NGO.

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How Myanmar Witness proved the involvement of the Myanmar Air Force

Fifteen seconds in to a video published by Khit Thit Media, an independent news agency in Myanmar, you can see a black mark in the sky. Then, you can hear the sound of a plane, followed by the sound of a detonation. Then, the person filming the video points the camera towards a number of injured people and shows bombed out buildings.


This video was posted on Facebook on January 7, 2024 and was filmed the same day in Ka Nan, Myanmar. © Khit Thit Media.


This video contains “open source proof” that enables investigators to determine the nature of the attack. For example, this footage proves that there were planes from the Myanmar Air Force on site, says Matt Lawrence, director of Myanmar Witness. 


In the case of the Ka Nan strike, state media claimed no aircraft flew over the area that morning. However, Myanmar Witness identified and geolocated footage of a Q-5 ground attack jet in the sky above Ka Nan village moments before the sound of an explosion. Ka Nan is within range and the flight time needed from Tada-U military airbase, where four Q-5 ground attack jets were visible on the runway shortly before the attack.  


In Myanmar, only the Myanmar Air Force has access to Chinese-made Nanchang Q-5 ground-attack aircraft, the plane visible in the video. 

There are also references to planes passing above villages located nearby on Burmese Telegram channels that follow the movements of military aircraft.

In a better quality version of the video shared by Khi Thit Media, obtained by Myanmar Witness, you can more clearly see the unique shape of a Chinese-made Nanchang Q-5 ground attack aircraft. © This photo montage was put together by Myanmar Witness. It includes a reference image from the “Blueprints” website, which has schematics of military planes.
In a better quality version of the video shared by Khi Thit Media, obtained by Myanmar Witness, you can more clearly see the unique shape of a Chinese-made Nanchang Q-5 ground attack aircraft. © This photo montage was put together by Myanmar Witness. It includes a reference image from the “Blueprints” website, which has schematics of military planes. © Myanmar Witness

Satellite images taken at 9:43am on January 7, 2024 show four Q-5 ground-attack aircraft on the runway at the Tada-U military air base, located 300 km from Ka Nan. It looks like the planes were being fuelled when the images were captured. Myanmar Witness reported that  that there is likely a connection between these planes being fuelled and the attack, which took place at 10:30am. 

Destruction of civilian infrastructure

Myanmar Witness also geolocated the buildings visible in different videos of the attack, like this church.

Here, Myanmar Witness has geolocated the Saint Pierre Church, which was damaged in the strikes, on this map of Ka Nan (23.805503, 94.143868). The team at Myanmar Witness examined a number of photos and videos of this church, which show external damage as well as blood in the interior. However, the state media outlet MRTV claimed that the church in Ka Nan was not hit during the strike.
Here, Myanmar Witness has geolocated the Saint Pierre Church, which was damaged in the strikes, on this map of Ka Nan (23.805503, 94.143868). The team at Myanmar Witness examined a number of photos and videos of this church, which show external damage as well as blood in the interior. However, the state media outlet MRTV claimed that the church in Ka Nan was not hit during the strike. © Myanmar Witness

Then, the team at Myanmar Witness compared satellite images of the village taken before and after January 7:

From high-resolution satellite imagery we found evidence of discolouration and destruction in and around Ka Nan of a nature that is consistent with an air strike – especially the areas surrounding the church and school. Comparison with imagery a few days earlier allowed us to identify the damage highly likely resulting from this specific incident.  

If you compare the satellite images of the village of Ka Nan taken between January 3 and 8, 2024, you’ll see that the surface of the buildings has changed between these two dates, a sign that the buildings have been physically altered. © Images provided by Sentinelle-2.
If you compare the satellite images of the village of Ka Nan taken between January 3 and 8, 2024, you’ll see that the surface of the buildings has changed between these two dates, a sign that the buildings have been physically altered. © Images provided by Sentinelle-2. © Myanmar Witness


Myanmar Witness also analysed the orientation of the shadows in the videos. Using the website Suncalc, which indicates the position of the sun for a given time and place, they determined when the videos of the attack on Ka Nan were filmed – around 10:30 am. This corresponds to the time given by the media outlets that reported the strike. 

Social media users also circulated several images showing injured people as well as dead bodies after the attack. Pro-democracy media outlets also published lists of victims, including children. A reverse image search showed that there was no trace of any of these images on line before January 7, 2024.

Myanmar Witness managed to confirm the identity of one victim – a woman wearing orange who appears in several images, seemingly lifeless.

These photos show a woman wearing orange. She appears in several of the photos geolocated by Myanmar Witness, in several different sites in Ka Nan. The sources are indicated for each image. “Source privée” (private source) is used when the NGO has decided to protect the anonymity of the witness for security reasons. © Montage by Myanmar Witness
These photos show a woman wearing orange. She appears in several of the photos geolocated by Myanmar Witness, in several different sites in Ka Nan. The sources are indicated for each image. “Source privée” (private source) is used when the NGO has decided to protect the anonymity of the witness for security reasons. © Montage by Myanmar Witness © Myanmar Witness


The team of investigators also geolocated images showing blood.

These are screengrabs of a video broadcast on social media. Myanmar Witness geolocated the video to where it was filmed in Ka Nan.
These are screengrabs of a video broadcast on social media. Myanmar Witness geolocated the video to where it was filmed in Ka Nan. © Daw Na News

In the case of the Ka Nan airstrike, the open source evidence is clear: imagery posted on social media and geolocated by investigators shows extensive destruction to civilian infrastructure in Ka Nan village, including a church, a high school and homes. 

We’ve seen this again and again in Myanmar, with airstrikes damaging or destroying education facilities, hospitals and places of worship.  

Matt Lawrence, of Myanmar Witness, says he hopes that the strike that took place in Ka Nan on January 7, 2024 will highlight the Myanmar Army’s continued use of these illegal strikes:

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‘Myanmar’s military has overwhelming air superiority’

Lawrence continues:

Research published by Myanmar Witness last year found that air strikes were a near-daily occurrence in areas where the fighting is worst, such as Sagaing. Civilians are left living in a state of fear over when the next attack might strike – this has become a part of their everyday lives. 

Myanmar’s military has overwhelming air superiority, in the form of combat jets and ground attack helicopters. This domination of the sky serves as a method of intimidation and fear, particularly when facing an opponent which, at most, has access to short-range drones.  


Myanmar Witness told the FRANCE 24 Observers team that they didn’t have solid evidence for a motive for the air strike that devastated Ka Nan on January 7. 

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Morning Digest | 10 civilians dead, 22 army men still missing in Sikkim, rescue operations on; Media bodies write to CJI, call for norms on interrogation of journalists and more

A flood affected locality at Singtam, in Gangtok district, Wednesday, October. 4, 2023.
| Photo Credit: PTI

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Poland said its army will soon be the strongest in Europe. Can it?

Through a series of major arms deals, Poland is set to establish military supremacy in continental Europe – though the high cost of this expansion is a source of concern for some experts.

If everything goes according to plan, Europe will soon have a new military superpower: Poland.


The leaders of the country’s ruling party Law & Justice (PiS) have recently announced that the country is set to have the strongest army in Europe within the next two years, thanks to the major modernisation of its existing equipment and a massive reinforcement of its troops.

The military has been one of the most important topics of discussion in Poland since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, as the country prepares for the risk of the conflict at its border spilling into its territory.

“The Polish army must be so powerful that it does not have to fight due to its strength alone,” said Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in November last year, as the country celebrated independence from the Soviet Union.

He promised that the country would have “the most powerful land forces in Europe.”

“We want peace, and if we want that we must prepare for war – in connection with that, we are strengthening the Polish Army in contrast to those who governed until 2015,” said Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak.

But is this major rearmament programme an objectively realistic goal – or simply a costly promise meant to boost support for PiS ahead of the country’s election later this year?

Poland’s plan for Europe’s strongest army explained

According to the Global Firepower’s 2023 Military Strength Ranking, the strongest militaries in Europe – after Russia – are currently the UK, France, and Italy. The UK’s position is mostly due to its manpower and airpower, while France can count on a strong helicopter fleet and several destroyer warships. Italy had 404 helicopters and two aircraft carriers as of January 2023. Poland was fifth in the ranking.

Poland has already set in motion the plan that will lead it to obtain Europe’s strongest army.

“Poland is in a state of transition, it made orders for hundreds of American, German, and South Korean vehicles, and it has expanded its defence spending to more than 3% of its GDP,” Frank Ledwidge, a barrister and former military officer who has served in the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan, told Euronews.

Last year, the president of Poland – a country that has been a full member of NATO since 1999 – signed into law a bill that allowed the government to spend 3% of its GDP on defence from 2023 on – a full percentage point above what is expected of the alliance’s members.

By comparison, Germany has recently pledged to increase its defence spending to reach at least the 2% threshold set by NATO for its members. In 2021, according to the latest data made available by Eurostat, the EU countries that spent most of their GDP on defence were Greece (2.8%), Latvia (2.3%), Estonia (2.0%), Romania (1.9%), France, Cyprus, and Lithuania (1.8%).


Newly NATO member Finland, which has one of the strongest armies in Europe, plans to spend €6 billion, or 2.3% of its GDP in defence, in 2024 – which is actually €116 million less than it expected to spend this year.

If Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński gets his way, military spending in Poland could be increased to 5% of the country’s GDP in the next decade, as he has suggested.

Poland has also announced a major purchase of modern equipment and a massive recruitment operation that will likely take place in the coming years.

The country wants to recruit about 150,000 troops in the next decade, which will bring its army from the current 128,000 active personnel and 36,000 territorial defence troops to 300,000 soldiers by 2035. With the new troops, the country will create six armoured divisions – whereas France and Germany only have two, and the UK has one alone.

It has also purchased over a thousand new tanks and 600 artillery pieces, mainly from South Korea and the US. These will bring the country’s firepower to be more than that of the UK, France, Germany, and Italy combined.


In July, Poland received 33 new M1 Abrams tanks as part of a €4.5 billion ($4.9 billion) order of 250. The country is also waiting for most of the nearly 1,000 K2 Black Panther main battle tanks it has bought from South Korea, of which it has received the first 10. Some 180 K2 will be delivered to Poland by 2025 for €3.16 billion, while up to 820 of the tanks will be produced in Poland under the licence obtained by South Korea for the next 10 years.

In terms of artillery, Poland has spent €9.2 billion ($10 billion) to purchase 468 HIMARS rocket launchers of the same kind that helped Ukraine’s forces with its successes against the Russians last year.

Can Poland really achieve its ambitious goal?

With these orders in line, “there’s no doubt” that Poland can become Europe’s strongest army, said Ledwidge.

“Is it an electoral promise? Maybe, but they’re going to be left with an awful lot of egg on their face if they don’t go through with these orders, and I suspect massive contractual issues as well,” he said.

However, some concerns remain among experts and observers, especially over the costs of this military expansion.


The expansion of the training of new troops and the recruitment pipeline will be a “challenge”, Ledwidge said, that will have a logistical and financial burden on the country. “But we should remember that Poland is getting richer, unlike countries like the UK, so they can probably afford the expenses.”

The issue of the gargantuan cost of this expansion of the Polish army has been raised by Polish military expert Robert Czulda, a Resident Fellow at the Casimir Pulaski Foundation, who in a recent article said that the country will have to face a “gun or butter” dilemma as it tries to secure long-term financing.

“It seems highly likely that such a large scale of planned orders is largely driven by a political populism, aimed at gaining popularity here and now, rather than to be a real, comprehensive, and well-thought-out plan for harmoniously strengthening the armed forces,” he wrote.

“Poland should ensure that these procurement programmes are sustainable and affordable in the long term. The country should avoid a risk of overspending, which now seems very high.”

Sławomir Sierakowski, founder of the Krytyka Polityczna movement and a senior fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations, warned that the impressive arm deals made by the Polish government “were made without government tenders, from a weak bargaining position, and without offset obligations from contractors.” 

How is this going to change the political equilibrium in Europe?

As the strongest army in Europe, Poland “will be more than capable of defending themselves and the Baltic states with what they’re going to get, assuming that the investment comes through,” Ledwidge said.

“The incentives to go through with this are both political and strategic. Poland needs to have a very strong army because it has become the bulwark of NATO,” he added.

This would likely put the country in a new position within Europe and NATO.

“It’s very probable that Poland then will become either the primary or secondary continental European power after France,” said Ledwidge.

“And that will mean that the UK will lose in due course its role as second commander of NATO, which would be a big blow for the country, but it’s deserved.”

The new position of Poland within NATO and Europe will push countries like the UK or France “to ask whether it’s worth even having their ground forces as a priority,” Ledwidge said, “or whether they should instead reverse to their natural speciality, which for the UK is being a naval power – something that’s being lost as we try to do all at once.”

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To protect Europe, the West should send arms to Moldova

The time has come to help Moldova rebuild its army and bring an end to Europe’s frozen conflicts, David Kirichenko writes.

After more than three decades since the unresolved Transnistrian War left a latent conflict simmering within its borders, Moldova remains under the looming spectre of a renewed outbreak of hostilities, shaped by Russia’s geopolitical manoeuvers. 


Central to this volatile situation is the presence of Russian military forces in Transnistria and a persistently aggressive Moscow, which has often sought to undermine the Moldovan government, even resorting to coup attempts.

The key to addressing Moldova’s inherent vulnerability lies in a comprehensive response from the West. 

This response should focus on strengthening Moldova’s military capabilities and enabling it to negotiate from a position of power. Such a move could set the stage for the reintegration of Transnistria and reduce the continued threat from the Kremlin.

Russian troops fighting in Ukraine are not the only ones deployed in Europe

Transnistria, a self-declared unrecognised republic tucked between the Dniester River and Ukraine, has been a persistent irritant for Chişinău since its establishment during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. 

In the 1990s, Russia triggered the violent stage of the Transnistrian conflict, fuelling it with claims of possible unification between Moldova and Romania.

The area along the border with Ukraine, housing around half a million people, has been controlled by pro-Moscow separatists since the Soviet Union’s fall. Approximately 1,500 Russian troops are stationed there, despite Moldova’s demand for them to leave.

This region also holds one of the largest weapons stockpiles in Europe, with about 20,000 tonnes of old Soviet ammunition. 

Romanian MEP Siegfried Mureșan, who leads the European Parliament’s delegation to the country, stated that Moldova cannot join the EU with Russian troops on its land against its own wishes, and this issue needs to be resolved before membership can be considered.

Despite their isolation, little combat power and inferior equipment, Russian forces in Transnistria serve as a strategic diversion for Russia to destabilise Ukraine and Moldova. 

While not an immediate military risk, their presence is far from benign.

Russian military intervention and continued support for Transnistrian separatists perpetually undermine Moldova’s sovereignty and national unity. 


Russia’s military presence primarily serves as a destabilising factor, keeping both Chişinău and Kyiv in a state of constant vigilance.

A brief history of escalation

Moldova, once part of the Soviet Union and now one of Europe’s most economically disadvantaged countries, is home to just 2.6 million people. 

Its landlocked status, surrounded by Ukraine and Romania, and the presence of Transnistria, with its predominantly Russian-speaking population supported by Moscow, exacerbate its geopolitical vulnerability.

If not for Ukraine’s unbreakable resistance, Moscow could have potentially seized control of Moldova in 2022 and established a pro-Russian administration as Russia’s discourse concerning the current Moldovan leadership’s illegitimacy grows increasingly vociferous.

In such a scenario, Moldova, neither large nor affluent, would have struggled to resist. Russia’s foreign minister even issued a warning aimed at preventing Moldova from becoming another state perceived as “anti-Russian”.


In April 2022, a senior Russian general stated that control of southern Ukraine would grant the Kremlin access to Transnistria, where he claimed Russian speakers were being oppressed. 

Shortly after, explosions targeted government and military locations in Transnistria, sparking fears of the conflict spreading to Moldova.

On 2 May 2022, the Pridnestrovie local newspaper, which is published by the Russian-backed Transnistrian authorities, falsely reported that there were “bloody terrorist attacks” against the region and appealed to Russia’s Vladimir Putin for help against the alleged “Nazi threat”, while blaming the Ukrainian armed forces with NATO support. 

They accused the Moldovan authorities of providing target coordinates, including civilian infrastructure. This gave a glimpse of how Moscow could try to use a diversion to spark hostilities against Moldova itself.

Chişinău strikes back

By February, Ukraine claimed it had intercepted a Russian plan to overthrow the government in Chişinău. 


In March, John Kirby, the White House National Security Council spokesman, stated that US officials believed Russia was attempting “to weaken the Moldovan government probably with the ultimate goal of installing a more Russian-friendly administration.”

Moldova responded by taking a decidedly firmer stance on the issue of Transnistria. As of February, the Moldovan legislature has moved to criminalise separatism — a move which has elicited considerable backlash from authorities in Tiraspol, Transnistria’s capital. 

Moldova maintains that these legislative amendments will not possess retroactive effect, applying solely to future instances of separatist activities. Most recently, in July, Chişinău expelled 45 Russian diplomats over years of “hostile actions”.

The incursion of Russia into Ukraine has catalysed a comprehensive discussion on Moldova’s defence capabilities and the viability of its neutrality. 

For an extended period, Moscow, along with Moldovan political factions favouring Russia, has propagated the narrative that Moldova’s neutral status implies more than just non-participation in military alliances — it essentially required the government to renounce any plans to build its own military.

In this context, any attempt to modernise Moldova’s armed forces was painted by propaganda as a belligerent and unconstitutional move, threatening to destabilise the region, instigate a conflict between Chişinău and Tiraspol, and potentially provoke a confrontation with Russia.

Old weapons in difficult times

However, Moldova’s armed forces find themselves in a precarious position. Armed with outdated Soviet-era equipment and a force comprising approximately 6,000 active-duty personnel and a reserve of 12,000 — many of whom have not been in active training for over 25 years — the combat power of Moldova’s military is notably lacking. 

A majority of its hardware harks back to the Soviet era, with some equipment over half a century old.

However, the 2020 Military Capabilities Plan of the Moldovan National Army outlines a decade-long roadmap to modernise its defence capabilities, transitioning from Soviet-style combat systems to Western models. 

It proposed a comprehensive plan for the armed forces, incorporating technological advancements, improvements in troop readiness, and increased national defence funding. 

Valeriu Mija, Secretary of State for Defence Policy and National Army Reform in the Ministry of Defence stated that helping to revive Moldova’s military would require an investment of around €250 million.

Mija further noted that the watershed moment for public opinion regarding the defence sector was undoubtedly the shocking events of February 2022 in neighbouring Ukraine. 

Yet, any significant shift faces potential obstacles on the path towards comprehensive military modernisation.

Ukraine’s training lessons might be of use to Moldova

However, the Russo-Ukrainian war offers a compelling argument for Western powers to aid Moldova in modernising its armed forces, a process likely to commence in the coming months and years. 

This, despite the fact that the sheer neglect by Moldovan officials over the past three decades rendered this project more challenging than initially estimated.

Western nations can enhance their support by establishing and expanding training operations, similar to their successful initiatives with the Ukrainian army, which has so far trained tens of thousands. 

Poland serves as another prominent training hub, and countries such as Spain, France, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, and Italy, among others, are also actively conducting training programmes.

A similar program should be established for Moldova, with a substantial investment in Chişinău’s military capabilities symbolising an unyielding commitment to supporting Eastern European countries facing comparable threats.

In May, the European Peace Facility (EPF) approved a measure extending financial assistance to the Moldovan Armed Forces. 

This provision, amounting to €40m — or 80% of Moldova’s military budget in 2022 — spans 36 months and is earmarked to fund non-lethal equipment, supplies, and services.

The assistance also covers technical training for the military units, as needed. The financing will cover a broad spectrum of military needs: air surveillance systems, mobility and transportation tools, logistic supplies, command and control instruments, and cyber-defence equipment.

In October 2022, the Moldovan government signed an agreement with Germany regarding the transfer of armoured vehicles and drones to the Moldovan army and the relevant training of its soldiers. 

Then in June, Poland opted to supply lethal aid to Chişinău. This support includes the provision of weapons, ammunition, and equipment intended to enhance the capacity of Moldova’s police force.

Helping Moldova defend itself helps the continent as well

From the international community’s perspective, investing in Moldova’s military modernisation is not just about regional stability but also a strategic investment in deterring further Russian aggression. 

A formidable Moldovan army would deter potential Russian advances and prevent further destabilization of Europe’s eastern front. It would also set the stage for Moldova to negotiate the reintegration of Transnistria from a position of strength.

The objective behind assisting in the development of Chişinău’s military is to have a leverage point in negotiations. However, this should not deter Moldovan and European officials from also adopting a more enticing approach towards the breakaway region by highlighting the economic incentives of integration. 

In fact, the territory’s greatest partner is not in the East, but in the West. The value of Transnistria’s exports to the EU, mainly comprising electricity, steel, and textiles, is estimated to be four times higher than its exports to Russia.

Over time, the economic model in Transnistria has also shifted away from its traditional socially oriented nature, transitioning towards a stricter spending regime. 

Due to Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine, subsidies to Transnistria are expected to only further decline as more resources are diverted to support the war effort. In fact, Russian financial assistance has been on a downward trend since 2014.

Ensuring Moldova has a proper military to defend itself also protects the greater European continent, much like Ukraine is doing. 

By taking a more proactive stance, European investment will put Moldova in a position of strength to negotiate the inclusion of Transnistria back into a unified state in the future. 

It will also take away Russia’s power in the country to destabilise Moldova, thereby bringing Europe one step closer to cherished peace across the continent. Now, the time has come to help Moldova rebuild its army and bring an end to Europe’s frozen conflicts.

David Kirichenko is a freelance journalist covering Eastern Europe and an editor at Euromaidan Press.

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