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Gen Z answers questions about war. Will they go to the frontlines or run away?

Gen Z answers questions about war. Will they go to the frontlines or run away?

Image source: © canva
Weronika Paliczka,
07.03.2024 13:45

Military experts warn that Russia may declare war on NATO in the next few years. The military urges young people to join, but not everyone is interested.

The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has brought the issue of global security to the forefront once again. Vladimir Putin's plan to quickly seize control of Ukraine failed, and the Ukrainian people have been fighting to defend their sovereignty since February 24, 2022. Military experts emphasise that Ukraine's freedom is an issue that concerns all nations, including those in NATO.

Could Russia attack NATO?

In an interview with the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius touched on the topic of a potential Russian attack on NATO.

"A Russian attack on NATO could happen within five to eight years, but with Sweden's entry into the North Atlantic Alliance, the ability to deter such attacks increases. Therefore, we will support Ukraine for as long as necessary. Secondly, we must have such a military baseline so that Putin does not start a war with NATO," Pistorius said.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin holds a similar view. "If you are in the Baltics, you’re very concerned you might be next. They understand Putin and his capabilities. And frankly, if Ukraine falls, I genuinely believe NATO will be fighting Russia," the secretary said during the hearing in the House of Representatives.

The Pentagon chief highlighted the importance of providing financial support to Ukraine. This is crucial to avoid Russia's victory and potential attack on NATO countries.

Bulgarian Zoomers have doubts

The team at Vbox7 surveyed young Bulgarians to determine their stance on compulsory military service. The results showed that 53% of the respondents answered 'no', while 47% favoured maintaining compulsory military service. Further, the survey asked those in favour of mandatory military service about their motives. The responses indicated that 56% of men were motivated by the concept of male honour, 22% cited patriotism, while another 22% gave a more practical reason, citing good working hours.

According to Vbox7, proponents of conscription argue that barracks play a crucial role in instilling discipline, patriotism, and a sense of duty in young men. They believe military service transforms young men from spoiled boys into mature and responsible individuals. Many supporters of conscription also believe that an increase in recruitment will lead to a stronger and more successful military.

Opponents argue that mandatory military service promotes hooliganism rather than patriotism, citing frequent accidents in the barracks.

Zoomers share their thoughts on military service
Zoomers share their thoughts on military service (canva)

Lithuanians motivate their peers to join military service

Lithuanian military volunteers are inspiring Gen Z peers by sharing their stories. Two soldiers spoke to the Delfi portal about their reasons for serving their country.

Lukas, a volunteer who finished his military service a few years ago, shared that his patriotic upbringing influenced his decision to become a volunteer. Since his childhood, Lithuania and its history instilled a profound sense of pride in being Lithuanian within him. He and his family never failed to celebrate important national holidays, and even if they were in different cities, they always made time to sing the national anthem on 6 July. "My grandfather was a partisan in his youth, which deeply influenced my commitment to the Lithuania we cherish today," he says.

Lukas experienced a range of emotions, including anxiety, as he prepared to leave for military service. Lukas knew he was doing the right thing despite the turbulent geopolitical situation at the time, including the influx of refugees from Belarus and heightened tensions on the Russian and Ukrainian borders. He had the full support of his family. Their encouragement helped him through difficult moments and fuelled his determination not to give up. Lukas' father always reminded him that what is difficult in training will become easy in battle.

Psychological challenges are more difficult than physical ones

The Lithuanian soldier shared that being in the army posed both physical and psychological challenges. He explained that the psychological challenges were much greater and included being confined to barracks for long periods, a monotonous daily routine, and an unchanging environment, which could lead to a mental breakdown. In addition, directives from senior commanders and various assignments forced him to adhere to a specific framework within which he had to keep himself. Lukas also stated that physical challenges can be prepared for, which makes them easier than psychological challenges.

Despite some negative aspects, Lukas believes the army is a huge life lesson. It provides an invaluable opportunity for self-discovery, personal growth, and maturity. During his service, he underwent a subtle transformation in his thinking and understanding of life. He became interested in living a quieter life, feeling the need to immerse himself in his goals and achieve them. He discovered more courage and reduced doubts about certain decisions. All the changes, to one degree or another, were for the better. The military service didn’t negatively influence him.

The soldier also emphasised that he had learned valuable life lessons from the military. According to Lukas, the most important thing is never to give up and never give in because not only does your fate depend on you, but also the fate of many others around you. The second equally important lesson is never to try to avoid the inevitable. Whatever happens, a person should make decisions, commit to them, and act accordingly. Every attempt to avoid or circumvent makes the situation more complicated. The third lesson is to cultivate tactical thinking, which, even in ordinary life, enables you to look at life situations from a completely different perspective.

Another soldier echoes Lukas’s words

Erikas (name changed upon request) also decided to share his experience of voluntary military service with 'Delfi'. Erikas decided to join the military service because he wanted to gain clarity about his life goals and convictions. He joined the service voluntarily with little encouragement from anyone other than a friend who also decided to join. Erikas's family supported his decision without any issues.

Erikas expected more emphasis on physical training, sports classes, and access to a gym with professional personal trainers. However, sports were not a daily activity and physical training was limited to basic bodyweight exercises such as push-ups and squats. He was hoping for more structured training in proper exercise techniques and plans.

Erikas did not recall any significant difficulties during his military training. However, he found adjusting to the disciplined and rigorous routine challenging during the first few weeks. As Erikas had been involved in sports for most of his life, physical activity was not an obstacle. Psychologically, he found it easy to adapt as his father had a disciplined upbringing, and he, too, had to overcome many difficulties in life. Erikas believes that those who did not experience such strict discipline in their upbringing might have found it more challenging.

"The military teaches you how to fulfil your responsibilities"

"The military teaches you how to fulfil your responsibilities, achieve your tasks within a set timeframe, and deliver results on time," Erikas describes the advantages of the service. "The strict daily routine instils the ability to manage time effectively and prioritise daily responsibilities. The clear hierarchy in the military helps you understand authority, develop respect for others' efforts and positions, and learn to respect people without prejudice or belittling them."

"The military taught me the value of hard work and pushing myself to my limits. It has changed my approach to tasks - instilling an understanding that tasks must be completed despite obstacles. However, in other aspects, not much has changed in my life. I have always been punctual, disciplined, and focused, and the military has helped me increase my stamina even more," he adds.

Erikas addresses the Gen Z members

The man’s appeal to representatives of Generation Z, who seek to evade military service at all costs, is thought-provoking. He asserts that if ten people were to gather around a table and discuss this topic, it would likely lead to a vigorous debate. His stance is clear: there should be no compulsion when it comes to military service. People should be free to choose whether they want to undertake it. While some may still opt for this path, the numbers could be smaller due to the pursuit of individual life goals.

Lukas echoes a similar sentiment, emphasising the gravity and honour associated with this decision. He views the nine months of military service as a period of profound learning. During this time, individuals gain valuable life lessons, alter their perspectives, and develop both physical and mental resilience. Lukas advises against avoiding the inevitable, recognising that in our unpredictable world, understanding war not only helps but also has the potential to safeguard lives—both one’s own and others’.

Are Polish Zoomers not willing to fight?

Polish Zoomers share concerns similar to those of their counterparts from the rest of Europe. Konrad, a representative of Generation Z, said: "When considering the scenario of war, I cannot help reflecting on the long-standing shortcomings and negligence of our government. It would be difficult to decide to fight for a country that for years has downplayed the needs of its citizens with no concern for their welfare or security. It is extremely frustrating to see the government downplaying issues that are important to the nation, leading us to doubt the point of our efforts and sacrifices. In such a situation, loyalty to the country collides with a sense of disillusionment and powerlessness towards our leaders."

Jakub echoes his words: "Right now, I don't know if I would decide to fight. I would only decide if the war broke out. In times of peace, this theorising will have no bearing on the day when a crisis occurs. My guess is that very extreme emotions would tear me at that time, and they would guide me when considering whether to go to fight or flee. Poland, as a place that has shaped me, is important to me, but my life is more important, and perhaps it would be my survival that I would put first after a conflict broke out. I hope I will never have to face such a dilemma".

Source: 'Radio Zet', 'Vbox7', 'Delfi'

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