Western European Nations Struggle with Military Personnel Shortages

NATO countries will not be able to deploy more than 300,000 troops in case of a conflict, experts warn

Western European members of NATO are facing a shortage of military personnel and would struggle to mobilize a significant number of troops in the event of a conflict, according to a report by the Financial Times.

Analysts suggest that while these countries have 1.9 million troops “on paper”, they would face challenges in deploying more than 300,000 soldiers. Even this would require months of preparation.

Former NATO Assistant Secretary-General Camilla Grand explained that NATO members have never had to consider mass deployment of their forces. For years, European defense planning has focused on smaller deployments, such as sending 300 special forces to Afghanistan.

“That’s created gaps,” Grand said, adding that the bloc has witnessed a “shrinking in forces all over the continent year after year.”

Ben Barry, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told FT that NATO’s European members have focused on increasing military budgets but haven’t prioritized conscripting more personnel.

Barry believes that European NATO states have reached a “tipping point of critical mass” and are in a “vicious circle” where personnel shortages limit their military capabilities. This makes it difficult to train new recruits, which frustrates existing servicemen and forces them to leave the army.

Experts told FT that Western European nations would need to address several issues to solve this problem, including offering competitive pay and attractive benefits to servicemen. They would also need to employ various methods to attract more recruits.

NATO states would also have to address the state of their personnel’s living conditions. Barracks in countries like Germany and the UK are reported to be in a state of disrepair, plagued with mold, pest infestations, and other issues.

Another pressing factor, according to the report, is the issue of patriotism among NATO servicemen. The FT noted that while countries like Poland and the Baltic states have seen increased recruitment due to the perceived threat of Russian aggression, these fears are not shared in places like Germany and the UK.

Russia has consistently stated that it has no intention of attacking any NATO members. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned the West against escalating tensions in Ukraine and attempting to inflict a “strategic defeat” on Moscow. He cautioned that this could pose a threat to the Russian state and trigger its nuclear doctrine.