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
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
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
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.