The beginning of a new year has been marked with substantial amendments to the experiment in the 76th airborne division. The military has decided that contract soldiers will live in dormitories on the territory of the military camp. The Defense Ministry does not intend to build apartments for them. WPS received this information from Major-General Nikolai Maslikov, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Airborne Force for Logistics.

The general said: “The Finance Ministry and the Defense Ministry have reached an agreement on billeting contract soldiers and sergeants of the 76th division. According to this decision, all paratroopers of the 76th division will live on the territory of the military camp in renovated barracks.” He also said, “Building of apartments for contract servicemen with families has been stopped”.

It is evident that the military has made this decision in order to make the experiment cheaper. As is known, the right wing of the Duma insisted on this. For instance, Boris Nemtsov, leader of Union of Right Forces, who has repeatedly visited the division and proposed an alternative program aimed at creating a professional army in Russia, says that the duration of military service must be cut to six months. He states that professional servicemen must live in barracks. The only incentive, which he offers to contract servicemen, is high pay.

The Defense Ministry originally intended to pay high money allowances to contract servicemen and build housing. A bit later the state refused to pay high money allowances to contract servicemen after the issue was considered by the government. (Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has decided to pay 1,200 rubles a month to each contract serviceman in addition to his money allowance.) After that, the Defense Ministry refused to build housing for contract servicemen. The Army made a very serious mistake. Being sure that the project of creating professional units in the division would be supported by the government, the Army began to build expensive housing for servicemen of the 76th airborne division.

It was supposed that the Defense Ministry would build 2,170 apartments. This would cost around 2 billion rubles. However, the 2003 budget promises to allocate only a third of this sum. In other words, the Defense Ministry will only be able to build dormitories in Pskov.

Nikolai Bragin, chief of the press service of the Airborne Force, told the WPS observer: “The result of such decisions is predictable. Part of the volunteers will cancel their contracts; others will slack off in their work.”

In the meantime, however, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov recently told the President that the Defense Ministry would soon prepare new programs aimed at creating professional units in all formations of the Airborne Force and other branches of the army. It’s a big question whether people will join these units. The number of contract servicemen decreased by 20,000 people (by 10%) in 2002. It should be noted that this happened despite a pay rise in July 2002. At present, contract servicemen receive around 2,800 rubles per month. Sources in the 76th airborne division say that many contract servicemen submit their resignation papers.

In the meantime, the command of the Airborne Force hopes that “People will serve out of patriotism”. Colonel-General Georgy Shpak, Commander-in-Chief of the Airborne Force, says that the moral factor plays a very important role in recruiting contract servicemen.

However, it is not clear if the experiment will show optimal conditions for creating a professional army in Russia. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov’s opinion about the experiment is more skeptical. He said in an interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta that, “We fear that contract servicemen will cancel their contracts when we send them to hot spots”.

In other words, no one knows if the experiment in the 76th division will succeed. The state does not have enough money to determine new parameters for its army. The leadership is trying to solve problems connected with the lack of mobilization resources using cheap methods. It is hardly likely that it will succeed.