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    March 31, 2015

    Russian Ministry of Defense intends to continue the draft


    By Yuriy Gavrilov

    Translated from Russian by J.Hawk

    The Chief of the Main Organizational and Mobilization Directorate of the General Staff, Vasiliy Tonkoshkurov, told journalists about the spring army draft.

    Such meetings usually take place after the president publishes the draft decree. This time the head of state signed the document one week prior to the official start of the draft campaign, which made Tonkoshkurov’s task easier. Exact numbers of the soldier intake—150,140 individuals—were made known earlier, while the rules for notification, assembly, distribution, and expediting the young men to military units have not changed since last year.

    The draft begins today and will continue until mid-June. All draftees will leave home exactly for a year: nobody is planning to shorten or lengthen their term of service. At the same time, the MOD is not planning to transform the entirely military onto a contract basis.

    “We are not going to abandon the draft entirely. The Armed Forces will have mixed staffing,” Tonkoshkurov said.

    The ill, university students, apprentices, and others who have a legal draft deferment are not eligible for the draft. Prior to being sent to troop units, the draftees receive personal electronic cards which record 300 items of data, including the biometric information for each recruit. At the processing center each draftee will receive not only a brand-new uniform, but also a bank credit card which will record his monthly monetary compensation—about two thousand rubles to privates, and slightly more to junior commanders.

    In addition, each young soldier will receive from the supply service an army satchel with shampoo, shower gel, toothbrush and toothpaste,  shaving cream, deodorant, hand cream, towel, and other personal hygiene items—19 items in total. Nowadays the recruits don’t need to buy these items on their own or bring them from home. As before, relatives are allowed to accompany their draftees to the permanent duty assignment.

    That’s the general situation. As to geographic specifics, this is the first spring and summer in which the draft will be conducted in the Crimean Federal District. The GenStaff requirement for draftees from the peninsula looks quite modest—about 500 persons. However, it has been announced that the Republic of  Crimea alone is able, in case of necessity, to provide the military with between two thousand and five thousand young men.

    “There is a decision that all the draftees from the two new subjects of the Russian Federation will be assigned to military units stationed on the peninsula, including training units,” General Tonkoshkurov explains to the Rossiyskaya Gazeta journalist. “We determined the number of soldiers needed to be about 450-500. However, draftees from other parts of Russia will also serve in Crimea.”

    In addition to the Crimeans, the other draftees who will have priority for serving close to home are young fathers and individuals with elderly parents. The MOD is welcoming the “humanization” of military service, therefore they have taken care to ensure the draftees’ good living conditions—all barracks have shower and tea rooms, they procured steam vacuum cleaners and washing macines.

    Soldiers who have university diplomas (about 20% of draftees) have a choice: they can serve two years of contract service instead of one year as a draftee. The most talented graduates who volunteered will be subject to a competitive assignment to so-called “science companies.” There are already 8 such units in the Armed Forces. Those who are accomplished sportsmen will be assigned to sports companies.

    In the fall of last year, some Russian universities pioneered a joint MOD and Ministry of Education project, the so-called “service while studying.” According to Tonkoshkurov, it already covers 13.5 thousand students at 65 institutes and universities. Their number may increase this year.

    According to the Chief of the Oversight Directorate of the Main Military Prosecutor’s Office, General Aleksandr Nikitin, the draftees should keep in mind that military service begins when the military commissar assigns the draftees their military ranks. Therefore they should take the law seriously. Running from a processing center may lead to a significant prison term—between 1 and 5 years.

    J.Hawk’s Comment: The conditions of service in the Russian Armed Forces have greatly improved over the last decade, and the most recent spectacular Russian operations in the Crimea not only brought the armed forces into the spotlight, but also made it a source of pride once again. Consequently the draft evasion that was a major problem in the 1990s is of much lower concern—Russia is once again a country that most of its people would willingly fight for, and the draft is an essential element of Russian security posture. It gives Russian armies strategic depth and staying power, which is something that all-volunteer forces simply do not have. For all their advantages, they have the fatal flaw of being extremely sensitive to losses, and their combat effectiveness quickly degrades when exposed to heavy combat for an extended period of time. Draftee forces are rather the opposite: they may perform poorly in the initial battles, but their effectiveness improves over time which makes them extremely dangerous opponents. The Russian government is making a wise choice in maintaining the draft—it is part of Russia’s conventional deterrence, to the point that no country even contemplates fighting a land war against Russia any more.

    The Russian government has also taken other measures recently to take full advantage of the draft. There is a draft legislation that would require all ministers and other senior government officials to have performed mandatory military service. There is also an effort to establish reserve armies that would be fleshed out by the recalled reservists with prior military training. There is clearly no expectation that the worst has passed. Indeed, the worst may yet be to come.
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