Parliamentarians discussed amendments to the nationality law on April 4. The amendments were rejected, since they were submitted by the opposition; only 196 deputies voted for the bill (226 required). This happened because Deputy Defense Minister Igor Puzanov met with deputies on the eve of the voting and denied the media’s reports that “380,000 Russian servicemen cannot receive Russian passports and become Russian citizens”.
The deputy defense minister commented on the situation as follows: “All servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces are Russian citizens by default because people who are not Russian citizens do not have the right to serve in the Russian Army. This is why we do not have problems with issuing passports to the military.” He also noted “the Russian Army has launched a campaign aimed at issuing Russian passports to officers, ensigns, and soldiers”. According to Puzanov, two-thirds of Russian servicemen have already received passports. This indication amounts to 95% in the Kaliningrad region. Puzanov promised that all servicemen of the Russian Army and the Navy would receive passports by October 1.
The Defense Ministry stated that the problem of issuing passports to servicemen was solved after Vladimir Putin helped an ensign of the 201st motorized infantry division deployed in Tajikistan receive a Russian passport. The Defense Ministry said: “The Kremlin gave an order to corresponding bodies of the Foreign Ministry and the Interior Ministry not to create obstacles to servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces who want to receive passports.”
In the meantime however, the passport problem may become very topical for the Russian Armed Forces. The point is that the Russian Defense Ministry has agreed with Union of Right Forces’ idea to recruit citizens of the CIS as contract servicemen. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov stated last Friday that “citizens of the CIS, who have served in the Russian Army for three years, will have the right to continue military service, enter a higher education institution, and become a citizen of the Russian Federation”.
It is natural that Russia does not have mechanisms for granting citizenship on a simplified basis. However, Vladislav Putilin, Deputy Minister for Economic Development and Trade, said that a federal program aimed at creating professional units in the Russian Armed Forces stipulates such a mechanism. It is possible that in the near future the government will submit amendments to the nationality law to the Duma. As a result, citizens of the CIS member-nations will be able to serve in the Russian Army.
The Defense Ministry commented on the situation as follows: “It is hard to say how many CIS citizens will join the Army. In the meantime, it is very likely that they will be interested in receiving Russian citizenship without obstacles.” The Defense Ministry did not elaborate what units will consist of such contract servicemen. It is evident that only a few foreigners will be able to serve in the Air Force, the Anti-Aircraft Force, the Strategic Missile Force, and more because servicemen of these branches of the army have access to secret documents and weapons. First and foremost, foreigners will be sent to the Ground Force. The General Staff thinks that tank, motorized infantry, and airborne units consisting of contract servicemen will have to serve in hot spots, including Chechnya.
In other words, citizens of the CIS will soon become the main executors of tasks connected with Russia’s defense. As is known, the Soviet Army used this principle – its Ground Force consisted of people from Middle Asian republics. Meanwhile, it is hardly likely that Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan will permit their citizens to serve in foreign armies. However, Russia does not need this. The Defense Ministry stated that the Army would recruit contract servicemen from the CIS member-nations, which signed the Collective Security Treaty.