The tragedy involving the murder of three officers and three policemen by deserters again proves that even elite units (the border guard service of the FSB) have serious problems with military discipline. Victor Zavarzin, head of the Duma defense committee, recently announced that the number of convicted soldiers and officers of the border guard service increased by 36.5% in 2004 (!). The increase of the crime rate in the federal service for protection of public officials amounted to 20.3%. It should be noted that the crime rate in the Armed Forces went up only 9.9%. The Duma defense committee states that in all 13,704 servicemen were convicted for various crimes in 2004, this is 4% more than in 2003.

It should be noted that this is the first such report announced by official structures over the past five years. The most important fact is that such information was announced by a representative of a pro-government party. It is hardly likely that the Duma defense committee has joined the opposition. According to Zavarzin, he criticizes the government because the cabinet is responsible for organizing efficient cooperation between the legislative, executive and judiciary branches of power and solving the problem of crime in the Armed Forces.

Zavarzin noted that society is sick, and its illnesses affects the security structures, including the elite forces. Zavarzin said that the share of recruits who did not work or study before the call-up increased 25% last year. Every fifth serviceman called up in autumn 2004, was brought up in a family with only one parent. Around 2.5% of recruits are orphans. Around 12% of recruits have mental illnesses. Opinion polls show that 50% of respondents faced violence and crime before the call up; some of them committed crimes. Around 40% of privates have low morale and cannot be appointed as junior commanders. Around 40% of recruits cannot be sent to strategic units. In general, the number of people who cannot join the Army because of medical reasons has increased from 5% to 20% over the past few years. At the same time, military-medical commissions find only a quarter of people suffering from mental illnesses, alcoholism and drug-addiction. Three-quarters of such people are called up to the Army.

Victor Zavarzin said, “Legislators have submitted a number of amendments to the federal law on universal military service, which were aimed at expanding the list of recruitment deferrals. It should be noted that at present we call up only 9.5% of potential recruits. What quality of recruits do you mean in such circumstances?”

The parliamentarian proposes a range of measures aimed at improving the situation. Firstly, Victor Zavarzin demands that the government restore the institution of guardhouses.

As is known, the president invalidated commanders’ right to arrest their subordinates by decree No. 671 dated June 30, 2002. At the same time, the president commissioned the government to prepare a bill, which would give commanders the right to arrest servicemen with the assistance of military courts, in 2002. The government had three months to prepare the bill. Over two years has passed but nothing has been done.

According to him, the results of criminal cases handled by military courts testify that 70% of crimes committed by servicemen happened because of the absence of disciplinary penalties for previous rude offenses. The absence of an efficient mechanism of countering violators of military regulations is a very dangerous factor because military crimes pose a threat to military and national security. The parliamentarians said, “All this necessitates passing the law on disciplinary arrest of servicemen.”

Secondly, Zavarzin proposes to include new penalties for military crimes committed in wartime to the Russian Criminal Code. In addition, he proposes to add the Crimes against Military Service chapter to the Criminal Code. He seeks to step up responsibility for military crimes, which pose a threat to the interests of military security in the Russian Federation.

Thirdly, Zavarzin thinks that replacing sergeants and master sergeants with contract servicemen will make it possible to strengthen military discipline in the Army.

Fourthly, the head of the Duma defense committee considers it advisable to restore the system of juridical education in the Army at all levels.

As we see, two out of four proposals are linked with restoration of punitive measures for violations. However, it is hardly likely that these measures combined with increasing the role of sergeants and implementing juridical education will work. We must cure society, and law and order in the Army will improve. It’s an encouraging fact that the legislative branch is concerned about problems of military discipline. However, this concern and proposals to the Criminal Code are not enough to improve the situation. To all appearances, the leadership must restore the system of moral values and economic incentives in society and the Army. Punitive measures will not be very useful.