Recently President Vladimir Putin signed the order on drafting to military services between October 1 and December 31, 2001, of Russian citizens 18 to 27 years old being not in the reserve and subject to drafting according to the federal law “On military duty and military service.” According to the decree, 194,824 conscripts will be drafted during this period. Putin instructed the government and regional authorities to secure taking of the relevant measures. Simultaneously with the draft soldiers, sailors, sergeants and master sergeants whose active service term expired will be released from the Armed Forces.

It is interesting that this decree was issued much earlier than usual and that besides reduction of the Armed Forces the number of drafted conscripts did not decrease in comparison to the last few years. Officers of the main organizational-mobilization department of the General Staff explained that the big quantity of drafted conscripts is explained by the fact that majority of troops are not yet manned with conscripts by 1005. According to general Staff experts, such a situation will persist until 2003, when the strength of the Armed Forces is reduced to 800,000 servicemen. It is easy to guess that soldiers and sergeants will account for more than 50% of the Armed Forces by that time.

Officers of the general Staff say that in the future Armed Forces and other troops will be manned with conscripts, and contract servicemen will serve primarily in “hot spots” in Russia, CIS and in the Balkans (Chechnya, Tajikistan, Trans-Dniester Republic, Abkhazia, South Ossetia. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo). So far their share in the Armed Forces has been decreasing. At present there are only 150,000 soldiers and sergeants serving in the Armed Forces under contracts.

Meanwhile, some Russian politicians advocate accelerated transition to voluntary professional Armed Forces and complete exclusion of the draft. For example, Duma deputy Grigory Yavlinsky, Boris Nemtsov and other parliament members say that the country can transit to a professional Army in two or three years.

Lieutenant General Vasily Smirnov, acting director of the main organizational-mobilization department of the General Staff, says that such estimates are not realistic. He says, “We have already heard this. Five years ago we declared that by 2000 Armed Forces would be fully manned with professionals, but this statement did not come rue. Drawing conclusions from this bitter lesson we need to proceed from objective analysis of available material, financial and other resources of the state when we design a new system of Armed Forces staffing. We should not allow the replacement of a constructive approach to solving this problem with populist slogans. We need to bear international experience in mind. Now only a few economically developed countries, UK, US, Canada and Japan, transited to exclusively professional armies, and France and Spain are only making efforts in this direction. Although the United States had a strong and stable economy in comparison to ours they have been transiting to the contract service for 13 years. Probably we also need to be cautious when we set up deadlines for this process.”

The General Staff substantiates its stance by calculations. Thus, according to defense Ministry, average annual expenditures on maintenance of one soldier or sergeant serving under contract exceeds 40,000 rubles. Along with this, maintenance of one conscript costs only 16,000-17,000 rubles a year. Calculations of military experts showed that if the Armed Forces transit to the contract principle of manning they will have to spend up to 13.2 billion rubles on money allowances alone annually which will account for the major part of the military budget of the country.

According to the military, development of infrastructure in military installations will also require much money (construction of additional housing for members of families of contract servicemen, expansion of social institutions, and so on). According to military experts, the state simply does not have money for this purpose. General Smirnov explains, “For more than ten years we have been unable to solve the problems of housing construction for officers and warrant officers. Now more than 100,000 families of professional military have no apartments and have to live in hostels or rented apartments. If the numerous contract soldiers are added to this number this situation will simply discredit the idea of voluntary manning of the Army.”

According to Smirnov, transition of the country to a contract system of Armed Forces manning will require at least ten years and will go on in several phases when the necessary economic conditions are created in the country.

Of course, democratic institutions are only developing in Russia. Due to economic reasons it will evidently be necessary to postpone the idea of professional Army. However, passing of the bill “On alternative civil service” does not fit this situation. The parliament is currently considering three versions of the bill prepared for debating by Duma deputies, and the government is getting ready to submit the fourth version in October. It is unknown which of the four versions the Duma will choose, and when the debating will be completed.

Against the background of alternative service problems, a proposal of Moscow authorities to man police and fire fighting services of the city with conscripts looks embarrassing. Informed sources report that in response to a proposal of the Moscow authorities to solve problems of the city on account of conscripts Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov wrote a letter to Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov where he stated that such initiatives contradicted the federal law “On military duty and military service.” The law states that conscripts sent by the military registration and enlistment offices to Interior Ministry can serve only in Interior Forces but not in police.

In the past, when General of the Army Anatoly Kulikov was the Interior Minister, the ministry already advocated banning of enlistment to police for the people to be drafted to Armed Forces. Kulikov signed such instructions and disseminated them among all regions. Kulikov was dismissed more than five years ago, and the idea was reincarnated. The position of Gryzlov about this problem is unknown.

Thus, there is an obvious conflict between the Interior Ministry and Defense Ministry. It is unknown when this conflict will be solved, although the situation is already not very good. Like the General Staff previously announced, Armed Forces, Interior Forces and Border Guards are manned with conscripts only by 90-91%. Due to demographic declines and low birth rates the number of conscripts is expected to decrease in the near future. If the police is also manned with conscripts there will not be enough young men to serve in the Army, although the available conscript resources are not of a very high quality.

According to the General Staff, 40% of conscripts originate from underprivileged or incomplete families. General Smirnov presented the following statistics, “every year we draft 3-4% of young men who graduated only from the elementary school (4 classes). Almost 50% of draftees did not work or study anywhere before the draft. Up to 4% conscripts are on file in police for minor breaches of law, and more than 7% of conscripts have criminal record, up to 12% regularly consumed alcoholic drinks, and about 8% tasted drugs. At present over 25% young men coming to the military registration and enlistment offices are unfit for military service, and about 55% are drafted with various health limitations.” No comments.