Reacting to spreading rumors that the Defense Ministry intends to increase the current one-year draft term to 18 months, 2 years, or more, GOMU Chief Vasiliy Smirnov said Monday, “There’s no plan to increase the term of conscripted military service in the Russian Army.”
His denial came hard on the heels of General Staff Chief Makarov’s sudden public declaration that professional contract service has failed, at least for enlisted soldiers if not future sergeants, and the army will redouble its emphasis on drafted manpower.
Commenting in today’s Novaya gazeta, the chairwoman of Mother’s Right Veronika Marchenko says:
“If the Genshtab Chief is acknowledging the fact that the Genshtab is not capable of transferring the army to contract service, even though a corresponding [Federal] goal program was adopted, this is not cause to return to the draft system and increase the number of conscripts. This is a reason to dismiss all the inept generals.”
That is a quaint sentiment, but it doesn’t work that way. The generals always muttered that contractees wouldn’t work, and men inclined to evade simply had to be herded in. They’ll say they were right all along. The chiefs won’t suffer, only the indians.
More interesting, however, Marchenko thinks the rumors could be a trial balloon to gauge society’s reaction–if there’s no reaction, they might try to increase the service term again.
Another human rights organizer claims every 10th conscript is abused in some dehumanizing fashion. She compares army service to life in a leper colony:
“It’s possible to live [there] ten years and not contract leprosy, or it’s possible for the irreparable to happen in one day. The army today is potentially dangerous for the human system.”
Komsomolskaya pravda’s Viktor Baranets writes today that he’s amazed that it’s taken 20 years for generals like Makarov, Postnikov, and Chirkin to acknowledge that contract service is doomed. He goes on:
“And how here can’t you believe that in the same manner in a year or two the Defense Ministry and Genshtab again will publicly ‘scratch their noodles’ and with a funereal sigh announce to us that the transfer of troops to the brigade system, and the transfer of the Navy Main Staff to Piter, and getting rid of warrant officers, and the reduction of almost 200 thousand officers were also mistakes? But the strategists who reformed the army for no reason will by that time will be wearing pensioners’ slippers and courageously scribbling out their memoirs.”
This Russian (maybe even universal, bureaucratic) penchant for back-to-forth reform, reforms where process is everything and results are nothing is truly amazing and very evident in the armed forces. But it’s everywhere even on the very same day. Witness please Putin’s solemn announcement that he’s slashing the rolls of strategically important enterprises after many years of just as solemnly building up their ranks . . . what was the point? What did they gain, what was accomplished? Nothing. It was a political drill to fend off clients desperate for money and bureaucratic attention, and their strategic status was, by and large, a sop. End of digression.
What else on the topic of the moment?
Baranets. He speculates the ‘death notice’ for contract service could be a first step backward on Serdyukov’s reforms. He says there are now 70,000 contractees and contract-sergeants. He believes in a year the Genshtab will increase conscription to 700-750 thousand guys annually, and they won’t become specialists in anything with demob always just around the corner. So, he concludes, the rumors about a return to longer conscript service ain’t a coincidence.
Versiya has interesting coverage of the issue. So Makarov says contract has failed, all sorts of other innovations in army service similarly haven’t brought the desired results. Dedovshchina didn’t decrease, collecting the requisite quantity of servicemen will now be more complicated, the quality of soldier training has sharply declined. And the number of conscripts in the ranks will grow. Versiya asks:
“Can it be we’ll return to the Soviet model of an army which has been publicly declared ineffective in modern conditions?”
One-year service was supposed to eliminate dedovshchina, but General-Lieutenant Chirkin admits it didn’t.
- First Version: Return to Soviet-style manning. Probability: 50 percent.
- Second Version: No alternative but contractees, this is just a pause. Probability: 30 percent.
- Third Version: Course will be unchanged despite Makarov’s announcement. Probability: 20 percent.
It sounds like Versiya really puts the odds of largely diverting from contract service at 50:50.