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Thursday Briefing: Ukraine Lowers the Draft Age

President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a law lowering the draft age from 27 to 25 and eliminated some medical exemptions in an effort to replenish Ukraine’s exhausted army. He also created an electronic database of men, starting at age 17, to crack down on draft dodgers.

Parliament passed the legislation last May, but Zelensky delayed signing it in the hope that he wouldn’t need it. Most men who wanted to volunteer had already done so, and small anti-draft protests had broken out before the new laws were passed.

But, as a lawmaker in the opposition put it, Zelensky “has no choice.”

Russia’s assault is unrelenting, and Ukrainian generals have warned of a broader attack in the spring or summer. Ukraine’s army is running low on ammunition, and many of its soldiers have been on continual combat duty for two years.

What’s next: Ukraine is expected, at best, to hold the existing front lines this year — but only if an influx of U.S. weapons arrives, analysts say.

Risks: Ukraine has a small generation of 20-year-olds, because birthrates plummeted during the 1990s. Drafting men at age 25 could further diminish those numbers and jeopardize future birthrates, leaving the country without enough working- and draft-age men decades from now.

NATO: The alliance’s top diplomat said it was poised to take more control over military support to Ukraine — a role that the U.S. has played — as American aid to Ukraine stalls and the prospect of a second Donald Trump presidency looms.