It seems that the problem of Russian Armed Forces manning is becoming a top priority. Many military experts agree that the current conscript and contract systems of troop manning are experiencing a deep crisis, which makes reinforcement of the Armed Forces and other troops with high-quality servicemen almost impossible. The situation is very difficult, because a demographic decline is expected in the country between 2005 and 2007, and the number of conscripts will fall tremendously. Due to the existing system of delayed drafting, this demographic decline will negatively influence manning of troops. Due to the absence of conscript resources, figures in this area may fall to 50-70%.

How it is possible to solve this problem? The government, society and Defense Ministry failed to come to a common view on this problem. For example, leaders of the Right Wing Forces Union faction of the Duma Boris Nemtsov, Yegor Gaidar and others say that it will be possible to cut the period of active service for conscripts to six months from 2003. Conscripts will form a mobilization reserve of the Armed Forces, and servicemen serving under contracts will form the backbone of the Army. The period of active service for contract servicemen will be much longer. Representatives of the Right Wing Forces Union say that if the money allowance for contract servicemen amounts to 3,500 rubles a month it will be possible to man the Armed Forces with professionals already in two years.

Officers of the General Staff and Defense Ministry disagree with such views of the Duma deputies. The officers assume that quick transition of the major part of the Armed Forces to the contract basis is unrealistic and add that it is possible to transit to professional Armed Forces gradually between 2004 and 2010.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov rules out the possibility of professional Army organization in the next two years offered by democratic politicians. According to the minister, transition to the contract basis of troops manning will require substantial financing and a serious changing of the system of military education and officers’ training. The Defense Minister refers to ten years of experience in transition of the US Armed Forces to the professional basis and presumes that in Russia such a process should not be sharp and quick.

Major General Valery Astanin of the General Staff says that if the money allowance for soldiers serving under contract amounts to 3,500 rubles a month, wages for an officer should amount to 6,000-10,000 rubles a month. Such raising of wages will require almost doubling of the military budget, which is simply not realistic for the current economic situation in the country.

Prime Minister Kasyanov actually agrees with the opinion of officers of the Defense Ministry and General Staff. On December 21, Kasyanov announced that specific actions for transition of the Armed Forces to a contract basis “may be taken not earlier than in 2004.” According to the Prime Minister, the stated goals imply assignment of a lot of money, which the government would have to do, and it should be convinced that “the money will not be wasted.” Along with this, Kasyanov does not rule out that the period of active service for conscripts will be cut to 12-18 months and not to the six months offered by the Right Wing Forces Union. The government will outline the general approach to transfer of the Armed Forces to a professional basis only by March 2002, when preparation of the relevant federal special program begins. However, already now the government presumes that the Armed Forces should include two components: units of permanent readiness for fulfillment of tasks in peacetime and a mobilization reserve including servicemen of the reserve and young conscripts.

The Right Wing Forces Union and President of the Academy of Military Sciences, General of the Army Makhmud Gareev also offer a similar structure of the future Armed Forces. Meanwhile, the ideas of Gareev have some peculiarities. It is necessary to take his opinion into account, because Gareev is a doctor of military and historical sciences. For a long time, Gareev was director of the main operational department of the General Staff of the Soviet Armed Forces. In 1991, Gareev resigned from the post of Deputy Chair of the General Staff. Now he is advisor to the Defense Minister.

Gareev is going to offer his own concept for transition of the Armed Forces to a professional basis. He already submitted his plan to the government and General Staff. According to him, this concept is different from the concept that the General Staff is currently developing (officers of the General Staff say that it will be possible to man the Armed Forces with servicemen serving under contracts only by 2010). This concept also does not coincide with the ideas of the Right Wing Forces Union and Yabloko faction leaders, who are convinced that it is possible to organize a professional Army already in two or three years. Gareev offers an intermediate term for transition of the Armed Forces to a professional basis and says that it is possible to do this in five to six years. According to him, it is expedient to make the following amendments to the system of Armed Forces manning:

1. First of all, it is necessary to single out the main regular part of the Armed Forces intended for direct fulfillment of combat tasks. Gareev offers gradual and complete transfer of this part to a contract basis in five to six years.

2. Simultaneously, Gareev offers preserving of the conscript system. According to him, it is necessary not only to retain the system but also to broaden it, or to abolish unjustified deferring of drafting. Gareev adds that it is necessary to cut the period of active service from two years to 18-24 months first, and then to eight or six months if possible. Drafted conscripts should be included into the so-called variable part of the Armed Forces, consisting of a network of training centers, where the conscripts will be trained. According to sociological polls, if there are the relevant material incentives, after a training course approximately half of conscripts may choose to serve under contract. The other half will resign, having received a military profession and will refill the mobilization reserve. According to Gareev, it is necessary to recruit the remaining quantities of servicemen serving under contract from people who have previously served in the Army.

Gareev does not agree with the General Staff, which plans to have only 40-50% of sergeants serving under contract. According to him, this entire category should consist of professionals. The President of the Academy of Military Sciences says that it is possible to take the aforementioned measures if the military budget is financed adequately. According to him, it is necessary to assign at least 3.5% of GDP for defense (now assignments for this purpose amount to 2.6% of GDP).

Thus, Russian society does not have common views on the prospects of professional Armed Forces organization yet. At any rate, the parties are unanimous in saying that this transition requires big financial assignments. However, nobody presented accurate estimates yet. Deputy Defense Minister Lubov Kudelina reports that the working group “for financial and economic justification of the Armed Forces’ transition to a professional basis” has been organized and is already functioning. By spring 2002, when the government will discuss the issue of military service under contract, the group will have to present the results of its work. By that time, the group should also present estimates of the Armed Forces’ needs for 2003 and for the longer perspective. Kudelina emphasizes that the government plans to include the first assignments for transition of the Armed Forces to a professional basis into the budget of the Defense Ministry already in 2002.