On the quality of conscript resources of Russia

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Last week, Major General Valery Kulikov, chair of the central military medical commission of the Defense Ministry, published the data manifesting extremely low levels of health among the younger generation of Russians. Thus, according to Kulikov, more than 614,000 young men received the right to postpone military service due to bad health in 2006. This quantity accounted for almost 30% of all youths who passed medical examination in the country. Of this quantity, about 200,000 youths are annually exempt from military service due to body weight deficit, that is, because of elementary malnutrition; 109,000 are exempted because of scoliosis and flat feet and more than 100,000 are exempted because of psychic disorders. Kulikov stresses that “these facts show that it is necessary to manage the health of conscripts on the state level.”

Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes that if such a trend persists, bearing in mind that in five years Russia faces a “demographic gap,” by 2012 the quantity of all draftees in the country will amount to just 660,000 and only slightly more than 400,000 of them will be fit for service. Incidentally, exactly this number of conscripts is in the army now. To leave this figure unchanged, the state will have either to abolish all grounds for the right to postpone service or to increase the share of contract soldiers in the troops by that time.

This means a sad prospect for Russian society and especially for young men. Kulikov states that the Defense Ministry has a way out. Authorities of the country have not thought about this problem seriously yet. Confirming his words, Kulikov says that the federal targeted program “Health of young people of conscript age” intended for the period between 2007 and 2010 is closed now.

According to Kulikov, this draft document was composed by specialists of the Defense Ministry “according to instructions of the President and the government.”

Kulikov said, “Unfortunately, at the very last moment, the Finance Ministry and the Healthcare and Social Development Ministry spoke against implementation of this program, which would definitely have a harmful impact on the fitness of conscripts for military service.” This refusal was explained by the fact that programs of this kind were already in effect in the country, namely federal targeted programs “Patriotic upbringing of citizens of Russia for the period between 2006 and 2010” and “Children of Russia.” In any case, according to Kulikov, these programs do not deal with the health of the conscripts directly.

For example, the Defense Ministry proposed the provision of free nutrition at expense of the state for all young people having a deficit of the body weight.

Kulikov explains, “Due to elementary malnutrition, approximately 200,000 young men receive the right to postpone military service annually in Russia. An equal quantity of girls have a body weight deficit too. This means that it is a problem for the entire country that should be solved on the state level.”

According to Kulikov, to solving of this problem, it is necessary to provide free medical nutrition to all youths and not only to conscripts.

Kulikov remarked, “For a few years in succession, military doctors in cooperation with parliament members have been working on this problem but the Finance Ministry keeps saying that there is and there will be no money for medical nutrition of the youth.” Kulikov stressed that in the Armed Forces, this problem was actually solved now: “The Armed Forces spend about 100 million rubles annually on the rehabilitation of draftees with a deficit of body weight. Every year about 20,000 draftees in the Armed Forces receive so-called additional nutrition in the first months of service.” The Defense Ministry also proposes increasing the patronage, sports and patriotic work in the society. According to top-ranking officials of the ministry, this work requires money and attention too, first of all, the attention of regional leaders. Officials of the ministry add that in Russia this work is insufficient in comparison to Soviet times when the health of youths was much better.

Thus, the bad health of the nation has a negative impact on the state of affairs in the Armed Forces. In 2006, 21,000 of the already drafted conscripts were dismissed from service ahead of schedule because of various diseases (a half of them having various negative psychic disorders). This quantity amounts to about 4% of all conscripts drafted to the army in 2006.

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