Despite that the government did not allot any money for this purpose, more than 180,000 conscripts were drafted on account of internal reserves of the Defense Ministry

Recently, the General Staff’s main organization-mobilization department summarized the results of the 1997 autumn draft campaign. As Defense Ministry representatives reported, the military registration and enlistment offices met the draft plans. In accordance with the federal laws “On Defense,” “On Military Duty and Service” and presidential decree No. 1069, from October to early January, more than 188,000 people were drafted into military service. During the same period, Russian citizens, who had served for the required time, were released from service. The peculiarity of the present campaign was that people with prior convictions weren’t drafted. However, the Defense Ministry and the General Staff were still concerned about the draftees’ social-psychological and medical characteristics. Only 70% of the conscripts, drafted in the autumn of 1997, have completed secondary education. Some 5% of them completed only primary education (in 1985 these parameters were more than 93% and 0.03% correspondingly). Among the 1997 draftees, some 8% were registered by the law enforcement agencies for their crimes, some 12% regularly drank alcoholic beverages, some 8% have tried drugs.

Defense Ministry representatives point out with alarm that within the last decade, the fitness of the conscripts have fallen by 20%. Along with this, the health care system’s work with teenagers has practically stopped functioning. The diseases causing conscripts to be released from military service are: those of internal organs – 26%; mental disorders – 18.5%; nervous system -10.3%; digestive organs – 9%; eye diseases – 8.5%; and endocrine system – 8.2%.

There are 47 people with mental diseases and 5 alcoholics and drug addicts detected in every 1,000 conscripts. Due to this reason alone more than 70,000 people are not drafted annually.

Now 33.3% of the conscripts, who show up at the draft boards, are released from military service or receive a deferment (just compare: in 1991 there were 20% of such conscripts, and in 1985 – 5%). The number of social diseases grew as well: within the last 3 years the number of conscripts with syphilis grew by 1,000%, alcoholics and drug addicts – by 100%.

The worst condition of the conscripts’ health was registered in the Western Siberia and Trans-Baikalia regions. For example, in Omsk some 40% conscripts did not pass the draft commission’s medical examination. In these regions the respiratory and digestive systems’ diseases account for a majority of the conscripts’ diseases. The number of conscripts with stomach ulcers doubled compared to last year. In Buryatia, 33.3% of the draftees are 10 kg underweight. In early December, there were 4,382 draftees examined by the draft commission, and only 1,518 were considered fit for military service, that is 38%. There are many problems, connected with the conscripts’ health condition, in the ecologically unfavorable Russian regions as well. For example, in Yaroslavl, where large industrial enterprises are located, 15% of the draftees were underweight. There is a similar situation in the areas where nuclear submarines are deployed in the country’s northern regions. Digestive system diseases, kidneys, bad eyesight, lack of weight are the most common reasons due to which the conscripts in Murmansk are deferred. Thus, the Leninsky district medical commission considered 70 of 750 draftees to be unfit for service, and in the Pervomaisky district, 151 of 727 draftees received deferments. Only 25% of the conscripts of Kirovsk, Murmansk region, can boast of normal health. It was only 10 years ago when the percentage of healthy conscripts totaled 90%. However the draft commission members were surprised by the draftees’ desire to serve. Some 75% of the conscripts expressed their wish to serve in the Armed Forces. Overall in Russia the number of conscripts, unwilling to serve, is growing. In autumn of 1996 there were 31,000. This autumn there were already some 40,000. The greatest number is in the central and northwestern regions and in the Northern Caucasus. Moscow, the Moscow region, St. Petersburg and Dagestan account for most of them. The fact that sometimes the law enforcement agencies don’t actively search for the conscripts who don’t appear at the draft boards, and that they aren’t required to account for it, due to different reasons, contributes greatly to the aggravation of this situation. (In the spring of 1997, 32 people were sentenced for not showing up at the military registration and enlistment offices, and in the fall – only 19).

The situation is especially bad in Dagestan. Among the more than 10,000 draftees summoned to the draft commission, almost 3,000 people did not show. The situation is the worst in the Buinaksk, Khasavyurt, Kizilyurt, Botlikhsky, Karabudakhentsky, Akushinsky, Tsumadinsky districts; and in Buinaksk, Khasavyurt and Kizilyurt.

In Kabardino-Balkaria, 30 people have been evading service since 1992, with the assistance of their relatives. Recently 2 of them were detained. The court will define their fate after a corresponding investigation.

Defense Ministry representatives noted that they directly participate in preparing the federal law draft, “On Alternative Civilian Service,” within the State Duma working groups. However, the officers say that this is not the Defense Ministry’s fault that the law hasn’t been approved.

According to official Defense Ministry information, no less than 105 billion rubles was necessary for the autumn draft in 1997. However as in the spring of 1997 much less money, some 32 billion rubles, was allotted for this purpose. This was done on account of other articles of the Defense Ministry’s financing (wage repayment and so on), contrary to the federal law, “On the 1997 Budget.” Besides the Defense Ministry, the draft boards’ work was financed by the local executive branch bodies. Their contribution amounted to some 21.5 billion rubles. Meanwhile the other ministries and organizations, in the interests of which the draft was organized (Interior Ministry, Federal Border Guards Service, FAGLI and so on) avoided paying any of the expenses, borne by the Defense Ministry, as has happened in the past. Numerous Defense Ministry representatives’ appeals to the government haven’t had any positive results. Thus, under the condition of a severe shortage of financial resources, the Defense Ministry once again fulfilled 1 of the main tasks of the state, connected with preserving its defense capability, on account of its internal reserves alone.

It is difficult to reproach the government for hindering the draft campaign’s organization on purpose. However we can see that the society and some power representatives stick to the opinion about Russia’s rapid transition to a professional Armed Forces. Why spend the forces and means for drafting conscripts, since it will soon be canceled? Meanwhile, objective data demonstrates that the country’s current socioeconomic conditions will hardly allow a transition to a professional Armed Forces within the next 5-7 years.

Now, contract servicemen account for only 25% of the total number of soldiers and sergeants. However the big outflow of contract servicemen from the Armed Forces recently began. The main reasons for the premature breaking of contracts are: lack of housing, insufficient wages and their untimely payment, problems with the servicemen’s family members’ employment, etc.

Meanwhile, not only the contract servicemen cause “headaches” for the Defense Ministry’s leadership. They are also caused by the lack of sufficient sums for financing the defense industry and research work, as well as for purchasing modern armament, reducing and reforming the Armed Forces, lack of housing for many officers. This is just an incomplete list of the problems that have to be solved by the Armed Forces before the year 2005. That is why the long-term program of preparing conscripts for military service should reliably function in Russia. The military registration and enlistment offices should be the main links of this program. If this doesn’t happen, a time may come when there will be no one able to serve in the Armed Forces.

The Armed Forces representatives are also concerned about the fact that current military legislation lags behind the urgent problems of manning the Armed Forces. For example, on September 10th, the State Duma approved the federal law, “On Military Duty and Service,” which was approved by the Federation Council on September 24th. However, the President didn’t sign this law and returned it to the Duma for improvement, because the lower house made some amendments in the law after it had been discussed and approved. Now it has to be discussed in the third reading by the State Duma again.