Forces: November 20, 2004


Hungary is abandoning conscription, after 136 years. The last conscripts entered service early in November, 2004. All volunteer armed forces are a continuing trend in Europe, and world wide. Britain was the first to go all-volunteer, four decades ago. The United States followed thirty years ago. These two nations demonstrated the advantages of an all-volunteer force, although it took a while for many nations to realize that it was the professionalism of the troops, not their high-tech gear, that made the biggest difference. When the Cold War ended in 1991, there was no longer much need for large defensive armies in Europe. The mighty Red Army of Russia, long a threat, quickly melted away in the 1990s. Since then, France and Spain have gone all-volunteer. Portugal and the Czech Republic are doing so before the end of the year. Slovakia and Bulgaria are planning to do so, as are most other nations in Europe. Only Germany, among the major European powers, maintains conscription, and the all-volunteer movement there continues to gain strength. Hungarys all-volunteer force will be about 25,000 troops, some 5,000 fewer than the current armed forces. Access to the long experience of Britain and the United States with all-volunteer forces makes it easier for other nations to go that way. The same thing is happening as America and Britain adapt many of their troops for peacekeeping missions, which Hungary plans to participate more in.


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