Ukraine has enacted its conscription laws following a full-scale invasion of the country by Russian forces. Thousands of young men and volunteers have joined the Ukrainian army and other militias to protect their country.
It is currently forbidden for 16-60 year-old men, who are subject to conscription, to leave the country. Many Ukrainians have no choice but to fight to protect their nation.
The data shows that most Ukrainians are eager to fight for their country. According to the result of a poll conducted by Ukrainian sociological group “Rating”, 80% of Ukrainians are willing to take up arms to protect their country. This figure includes around 90% of men and 70% of women.
Too high a price for freedom?
In Belgium, by contrast, citizens are more reluctant. Despite having been invaded twice in the previous century, Belgians are mostly opposed to the idea of taking up arms to defend their country.
According to a survey of 3,300 Belgians conducted by Belgian daily tabloid La Dernière Heure, 59% stated that there was “no way that they would get themselves killed” protecting Belgium.
The actual figure of those willing to fight could be even lower. A 2015 Gallup poll, which interviewed 62,398 people across Europe, ranked Belgium as the third least willing nation to take up arms. Only 19% of Belgians interviewed stated that they would fight for their country.
Belgium is not alone in its hesitance to fight for the state. Only 15% of Dutch and 18% of Germans were willing to fight for their country in 2015. Yet with the existential threat to Europe becoming all the more real, attitudes towards the very concept of conflict are changing. Germany just announced that it will increase its military capacity – a stark shift from its long-held distrust of military force.
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A conflict on Belgian soil is, admittedly, extremely unlikely. But hesitance to defend the state may prove problematic amidst the backdrop of growing tensions in Europe.
Belgium suspended its conscription laws in 1992 and its army currently only consists of professional soldiers. In the case of an international crisis, Belgium is able to reintroduce conscription at a moment's notice.
The Belgian army has launched several major recruitment drives in recent years. It is currently seeking to hire an additional 2,500 troops, opening recruitment stands at major shopping centres across the country.