The Central Staff of the Ground Force finalized first results of a transition to a contract system of recruitment on July 26. The meeting held by General of the Army Nikolai Kormiltsev, Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Force, was attended by chief of central departments of the Defense Ministry and the General Staff, chief of different departments and services and commanders of military units. Observers say that such a discussion was held for the first time because the federal program on a transition to a contract system of recruitment was launched only on January 1, 2004. Colonel-General Vasily Smirnov, Chief of the Central Mobilization-Organizational Department, said that the share of contract servicemen amounted to 24%. The Army plans to increase this indication to 50%-51% in 2007. Around 147,500 contract servicemen will be recruited. Over 90,000 of them will serve in the Ground Force. The Army must recruit 15,700 contract sergeants and soldier in 2004. Generals note that this result has practically been achieved. In particular, only one regiment of the 42nd motorized infantry division consists of draftees – the remaining regiments consist of contract servicemen. Several battalions of the 76th airborne division operating in Chechnya consist of contract servicemen too.

In the meantime, generals noted at the meeting that problems with recruitment of contract servicemen just begin. Firstly, professional qualities of contract servicemen are very low. Lieutenant-General Valery Astanin stated that the experience of the 76th airborne division shows that 19% of contract servicemen left the Army. Around 40% of them were dismissed because of low discipline. The same concerns recruitment of contract soldiers and servicemen in other military units. Lieutenant colonel Andrei Kuzmenko, chief of the staff of a motorized infantry regiment of the Siberian military district, and colonel Vitaly Pozherin, military commissar of the Industrial district of Khabarovsk, noted that persons who have not found their place in civil life join the army. It should be noted that contract servicemen will continue leaving the Army because of low pay. Lieutenant-General Astanin said that 44% of contract servicemen, who decided to resign from the 76th airborne division, made this decision because of low pay. The point is that at first contract servicemen lived in barracks and received only 4,000 to 5,200 rubles a month. A bit later money allowances increased to 6,500 rubles a month. It should be noted that a lieutenant of an ordinary military unit receives only around 4,000 rubles a month (less than a contract soldier). Generals fear that the Army will face serious problems with recruitment of contract servicemen in central regions where the living standard is higher. Astanin and other officers say that money is the main factor why people join the Army. For instance, there are no problems with recruiting contract servicemen to the 42nd motorized infantry division stationed in Chechnya – contract servicemen receive around 15,000 rubles a month.

There are many problems with training professional servicemen. These problems are linked with the necessity of creating schools of sergeants, which would become the main source of junior commanders in the Army.

In addition, the Army is now creating the infrastructure of military settlements and units, which will become professional in 2005. This concerns 31 units of the Ground Force.

At the same time, General of the Army Nikolai Kormiltsev thinks that up-to-date weapons and military hardware are a very important factor of the creation of a professional army. The commander-in-chief of the Ground Force said: “This task is very important for us because we scrap 5% of weapons and military hardware a year but do not receive new weapons.”

In other words, problems of a professional army have not been solved yet. First experience of creating professional units – the 76th and 42nd divisions – was rather successful. However, this experiment was organized using the Chechen factor – soldiers’ and sergeants’ wages in the republic are three times as high as in other military units. In other words, contract servicemen need new incentives.