Tag Archives: Callup

Draft Details (Addendum or Draft Board Storming)

One must report the apparently contradictory along with the confirmatory . . . Mil.ru has reported GOMU’s final results for the spring 2013 callup.

GOMU indicates that, as of 12 July, it summoned more than 700,000 draft-age males, with more than 692,000 appearing as requested.

The order to induct 153,200 men in President Putin’s decree was, of course, fully accomplished.

It must have been hard getting 118,000 men in front of draft commissions during the final ten days of the callup.

Это какой-то штурм . . . .

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No One to Call (Part I)

Shaved and Ready to Serve (photo: Yelena Fazliullina / Nezavisimaya gazeta)

“We could call-up 11.7% of all young men.  Of them, 60% got out on health grounds.  Therefore, the RF Defense Ministry confronts the fact that there is almost no one to call-up into the RF Armed Forces.”

Army General Nikolay Makarov

So the General Staff Chief declared on November 11, 2011, and he’s been quoted to this effect many times since. 

Just nine months earlier, the Defense Ministry declared professional contract service would be the primary method of manning the Armed Forces.  And a year before that, the Defense Minister and General Staff Chief said the exact opposite:  conscription would be primary and contract service would be curtailed.  

But the impossibility of manning a million-man Russian Army by means of the draft was clearly understood by many observers at that time.

The Defense Ministry recently issued its customary press-release indicating 100-percent fulfillment of the fall draft campaign.  

Only 135,850 young men were conscripted for one year of obligatory military service.  This was about 80,000 fewer than the number inducted during the spring draft (218,720), and less than half the fall 2010 call-up (280,000). 

This fall’s 135,850 twelve-month soldiers are just about the same number of men typically drafted for a two-year service term in the mid-2000s.

Viktor Baranets published his archive of annual conscription numbers back to 1999, which is handy.  He makes the point that, in contrast to today’s 12 percent or less, 20 percent of available men were being drafted as late as the late 1990s.

Let’s suppose if Makarov’s 12 percent go to serve and 60 percent are excused for health reasons, then 28 percent are escaping through deferments (mostly educational) or evasion. 

Makarov’s precise 11.7 percent or 135,850 conscripts would mean his total draft pool was under 1.2 million men.  This seems odd because census numbers say Russia should have at least two million 18- and 19-year-old men right now.  And that’s not even mentioning some 21- or 22-year-olds who get caught in the commissar’s dragnet. 

There might be some math your author can’t fathom, but it could also be that the widely-reported number of 200,000 long-term draft (or draft summons) evaders is actually much, much higher.

Let’s look at a fairly detailed report on conscription in one oblast — Sverdlovsk.  Nakanune.ru reports the oblast’s military commissar sent out 25,000 draft notices to the region’s youth. 

Almost half were unfit for health reasons, leaving, let’s suppose, 13,000 young men to sort through.  But this, of course, means Sverdlovsk’s a lot healthier place than many places.

Of those 13,000, some 6,000 had deferments.  So we’re down to 7,000 candidate-soldiers.  Of them, 4,056 were inducted this fall. 

That’s a deferment rate of 24 percent for all men summoned to the draft board.  And 4,056 is 16 percent of those summoned.  The MVD got 700 men (3 percent), and the Armed Forces presumably got 3,356 (13 percent).

Now unmentioned are the 2,944 not deferred and not drafted.  Who knows how they might be counted.  But they might be guys evading the draft by simply going missing.  For those keeping score, that could be an 11.7 percent evasion rate.  Just as many dudes avoiding service as going to serve this fall.

Farewell Russian Arms and Russian Army

Does it matter what old soldiers think?  It doesn’t seem to right now.  Maybe they’re just bitter old dudes whose time has passed. 

But they certainly provide interesting and frank commentary on the state of the OPK, the Armed Forces, and Serdyukov’s reforms at odds with official pronouncements from the Kremlin, White House, and Defense Ministry.

Former 58th Army Commander, retired General-Lieutenant Viktor Sobolev wrote recently for Pravda.  He reacted to a program on the army on NTV from October 9.  It apparently wasn’t posted on NTV’s site. 

Sobolev says this right up front:

“On the eve of elections, our president and Supreme Commander-in-Chief Dmitriy Medvedev and ‘national leader’ Vladimir Putin have been worried in turn by the condition of the country’s army and military-industrial complex and are assuring gullible Russian citizens that they will do everything so that our Armed Forces meet modern requirements and receive new types of armaments and military equipment in a timely manner.”

“The Russian mass media [SMI] under the government’s and president’s control have been actively used in making these assurances.”

The ex-general-lieutenant is critical of just about everyone:  Serdyukov and his “effective” managers, people who haven’t served in the army, former First Deputy Defense Minister Popovkin who wanted to buy more arms abroad, his successor Sukhorukov who dares insist that defense enterprises substantiate their prices, independent defense commentators like Litovkin and Pukhov, interest-hungry banks, corrupt middlemen.

He points only to Tactical Missile Armaments Corporation General Director Boris Obnosov in a positive light for recognizing that other countries won’t sell Russia their best weaponry. 

Still, Sobolev’s under a bit of a misimpression thinking that Moscow is really buying lots abroad.  In fact, a cynical observer might conclude the whole situation over the last year was designed to let Putin be the champion of the domestic defense sector vs. Medvedev the Westernizer.  But we digress . . . 

For Sobolev, this all sums to an OPK with a broken GOZ, that’s chronically underfinanced and losing its capability to produce modern arms and equipment. 

Again, the cynic might say this was already lost a number of years ago.

But, says Sobolev, when compared with the OPK:

“Even worse is the situation in the Armed Forces.  It’s believed we have a million-man army which Mr. Sukhorukov recalled on this program.  Let’s calculate it together.  According to TO&E, there are 150 thousand officers in the army, no warrants at all, they were liquidated.  According to civilian [but he still wears his uniform] GOMU Chief V. Smirnov, 184 thousand contractees are serving in the army and navy.  In all 334 thousand, the remaining 666 thousand are conscript servicemen.  But they simply couldn’t have called up so many.  Moreover, conscripts serve not only in the army and navy, of the number called up, up to 30% serve in the Internal Troops, Border Guards, MChS units, presidential regiment, and so forth.  This means in the army and navy huge undermanning exists, and it will only get bigger.  It’s planned to reduce the fall callup by 2 times.  More than 200 thousand citizens, according to Smirnov, are evading military service.  The spring callup stretches out to September, and the fall until March.  In the troops, they’re occupied with it constantly, in the course of the entire year, they take young soldiers into their ranks in small groups, organize individual training for them and try to man sub-units.  At the same time, the process of dismissal also goes on without interruption.  In these conditions, you can’t talk about any kind of quality manning of sub-units.  What kind of units of permanent combat readiness are these?”

“Therefore NATO’s military analysts note with satisfaction that, as a result of the reforms conducted, Russia’s Armed Forces aren’t capable of completing missions even in local conflicts, ‘The Russian Army does not have a sufficient quantity of transport resources for redeploying troops over great distances, does not have a sufficient quantity of aircraft and pilots who know how to fly in any weather, no unified information system.  There are not enough soldiers in the army . . .’”

“In NATO, they understand the Russian Army’s fallen apart, but how about our country’s leadership?”

Whoa. 

Sobolev’s no crank, and he’s not to be taken lightly.  Born and schooled in southern Russia, he probably has combat experience whereas the current General Staff Chief and Ground Troops CINC probably don’t.  Sobolev served as Deputy Commander of the OGV(s) in Chechnya in 2002, before taking over the NCMD’s 58th Army in 2003.  He ended his career as the chief military advisor in Russia’s Indian embassy in late 2010.

General-Lieutenant Sobolev

A more recent photo shows him looking just about as fit in retirement at age 61.

One wonders if a conservative like Sobolev realizes how much his thinking coincides with that of more liberal critics he seems to detest.

Serdyukov Offers Access to Military Units

Varying media accounts of Defense Minister Serdyukov’s meeting Thursday with defenders of conscript rights lead one to think they attended different meetings.

But the Defense Minister deserves praise for facing some of the army’s sharpest critics.  And for apparently saying he wants to meet them routinely, according to Krasnaya zvezda.  His predecessors rarely did.

The headline story from the meeting was Serdyukov’s offer for civilian activists to accompany conscripts through the induction process until they reach their place of service, and settle into their units.  He also offered fuller access to the military’s bases.

RIA Novosti  quoted him:

“We want to propose an option for accompanying conscripts:  take part in the callup commission, and then go with them to units and see how they are billeted.” 

He added that he is prepared to let civilian representatives into all military units, with the exception of an unknown number of secret ones.

According to ITAR-TASS, he said:

“The Defense Ministry on the whole is interested in public organizations having access to military units.”

So Serdyukov bowed to greater civilian involvement, if not control or oversight, and also stumped for his efforts to ‘humanize’ conscript service in the armed forces.

His offer was interesting for the catch it included . . . these civil society representatives have to participate in the callup commission before they can go with new soldiers to their units. 

Maybe Serdyukov thinks they won’t take up the offer.  Maybe he thinks, if they do, they’ll dirty their hands in the difficult work of deciding who has to serve, or doesn’t, and where.  Maybe sorting through far-from-ideal candidates and still trying to meet manpower quotas will temper their criticism.

But it may give conscript rights activists even better insight into induction process problems and abuses than they already have.   We’ll see.

Serdyukov touted efforts to enable conscripts, especially those with dependent parents and children, to serve as close to home as possible, rather than sending them as far away as possible like in the past.

But Valentina Melnikova of the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers (SKSM or СКСМ) believes no one is fulfilling Serdyukov’s order to assign draftees closer to home:

“In military commissariats no one pays attention to this.”

According to Lenta.ru, Serdyukov cited his other innovations – introducing a rest hour after lunch, lifting virtually all restrictions on the use of cell phones by conscripts, giving them a chance to earn a weekend pass, and freeing them from all housekeeping and maintenance chores in their barracks, units, and garrisons.  But neither Serdyukov nor the media could say how widely these initiatives have been implemented. 

According to Krasnaya zvezda, Serdyukov wants to revive moribund parents’ committees introduced several years ago, but found impractical when young men served in remote areas far from home.  If they’re closer to home, their parents might be able to visit their units.  Serdyukov also mentioned the 4-year-old Defense Ministry Public Council.  Krasnaya zvezda reported that Melnikova is heading its working group to coordinate its activities with other public and human rights organizations.  Serdyukov expressed the hope that such a unification of efforts will be beneficial.

IA Regnum reports that Petersburg’s Ella Polyakova gave Serdyukov a detailed report on violations of conscript rights complete with statistics, concrete examples, and proposals to better protect them.

Polyakova would like to remove examining physicians from the callup commission, and from the control of the voyenkomat.  She said their qualifications need improvement also.  She objected to Serdyukov’s cuts in military medicine and called for better psychiatric assistance for conscripts in their units.

Polyakova says Serdyukov’s officer cuts have worsened the situation in the barracks.  Sergeants who were supposed to replace officers are ill-prepared for greater responsibility, and barracks violence has spiked as a result.  The Main Military Prosecutor’s figures support her.  Sergey Fridinskiy recently reported that hazing and other barracks violence increased 50 percent in the first five months of 2010.

Newsru.com reported Tatyana Kuznetsova’s concern about the army stretching its definition of fitness and taking men who should be deferred or exempt for health reasons:

“But, as we know, right away, having just reached the troops, many guys turned up in hospitals which were overflowing.  Like in a war, they laid in three rows, on the floor, in corridors.  These boys were called up sick, with chronic illnesses that weren’t discovered during the callup.  They weren’t discovered on purpose.”

All in all, it’s clear that, no matter how often they get together, Defense Minister Serdyukov and human rights activists will continue to disagree about the state of the army and how to change it.

According to IA Regnum, when Serdyukov said there’s no money for contract service, the activists asked him to explain:

“. . . how much money is being expended from budgets at all levels to fulfill the conscription plan in the ranks of the armed forces, as a result of which young men who are sick, invalids, and psychologically unstable end up in the army.  And next compare this with the amounts of expenditures to dismiss conscripts from the army after several months for health reasons, and to pay compensation to the families of those who have died or become invalids in peacetime.”

More on the Military Manpower Dilemma

Social Portrait of SibVO Conscripts (Photo: Trud)

Mikhail Lukanin wrote in Trud this week about the Defense Ministry’s unending manpower woes. 

He concluded that the first two months of this spring’s draft campaign showed there’ll be almost no way to avoid conscription.  Experts he talked to believe the Defense Ministry’s conscription plan is unrealistically high, and the armed forces will turn to inducting every student. 

The callup is supposed to run 1 April to 15 July, and take in 270,000 new soldiers.  Voyenkomaty have already sent 100,000 men—mostly from the Volga-Ural region and Siberia—to their units.  One-third of callup-aged men were screened out due to health problems, most of which were diagnosed initially when the men appeared before the military-medical commission. 

Experts consider the early part of the draft campaign the easy part.  Voyenkomaty have been dealing with young men not in school who go pretty willingly to the army, according to human rights advocate Sergey Krivenko.  

But he says in the last weeks of the draft the voyenkomaty have to meet their quotas mainly with VUZ graduates who don’t have any desire to serve.  Valentina Melnikova of the Soldiers’ Mothers’ Committee says: 

“Mass roundups in student dormitories have already begun.  They traditionally conduct them mostly in Moscow and St. Petersburg.” 

In the fall, 43,000 university and institute graduates found themselves in the army—that’s 15 percent of all conscripts. 

Demographers indicate that the number of 18-year-old men will fall, and not exceed 600,000 for the next two years.  That number equals the number of places available in higher education institutions.  Independent military-economic analyst Vitaliy Tsymbal concludes: 

“The Defense Ministry can fully meet its draft plan only by means of total conscription of students.” 

And it has done little to hide its appetite for students, according to Lukanin. 

GOMU Chief Vasiliy Smirnov already talked to the Federation Council about drafting students after one or two years in a VUZ, and the Education Ministry reportedly didn’t object.  The extension of the current draft until 31 August means that those finishing school at 18 can now fall directly into the army, rather than taking their VUZ entrance exams.  Similarly, the ‘nonstop draft’ means VUZ graduates hoping to start their graduate studies will now fall subject to the draft. 

Of course, Smirnov has also raised cutting sharply the number of VUZy that can provide students a draft deferment.  He talks about a 50 percent cut, expanded later to a 70 percent cut in qualified VUZy.  Trud has been told all nongovernmental institutions will lose the right to provide deferments. 

Sergey Krivenko believes in every draft about 130,000-150,000 conscripts are ready to serve [his number may be high since it wasn’t so long ago that 133,000 were drafted every six months, and surely not every one of them was happy to go].  If, according to Krivenko, the Defense Ministry stuck with this number, it wouldn’t have any problem with conscription [it would certainly have fewer problems].  He continues: 

“However, the whole point is that beginning with spring 2009 the plan jumped to almost 300,000 in one callup.  Troop commanders themselves say that half of this number is simply ballast for the army.  Mainly these are guys in poor health, with a low level of education, and also inveterate hooligans.” 

Lukanin had a second article reviewing data from a survey of 7,800 conscripts in the SibVO.  Every third conscript considers serving a burden.  Only 40 percent had a secondary school (high school) or initial professional (post-secondary technical training) education; 4.5 percent had a complete higher education.  A third of the men grew up without fathers.  One in ten admitted either misusing alcohol, trying narcotics, or having a run-in with the police before coming to the army. 

More than 30 percent said they came to the army just to avoid trouble with the authorities.  Two percent said they have a negative attitude toward the army [this represents the small number of young men willing to tell the army’s pollsters what they really think to their faces]. 

Experts tell Lukanin the poll results will change as conscripts from Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other large cities begin to arrive.  A figure of 15 percent with negative attitudes toward the army is about the norm. 

Ten percent of the conscripts have health problems.  Three percent are underweight. 

The medical condition of conscripts may be worsening.  Official data say half of conscripts have health-related restrictions on their service.  And army commanders confirm that it’s hard to find draftees without some kind of defect.  ‘Ideal’ soldiers (from a physical and social standpoint) are found only in honor guards.  The deputy commander of the Moscow honor guard battalion said last fall he traveled all over Kostroma Oblast and, of 1,000 candidates presented by local voyenkomaty, he accepted only 30. 

Finally, one last story of draft-related problems . . . Nezavisimaya gazeta ran an editorial this week describing how some conscripts finishing their year of service in the DVO, Pacific Fleet, and SibVO are not being demobbed on time.  According to this report, they are being held because the DVO doesn’t have trained soldiers to take their places and participate in the operational-strategic Vostok-2010 exercise starting at the end of June.  The editorial concludes that the spring conscripts don’t even know how to handle their weapons yet, much less find a target on radar.  NG calls it a symptom of the fact that the Russian Army never has, and never has had, enough specialists.  The editors could hark back to the need for a professional army, but instead they recommend a better system of reserve mobilization.