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Military


Russian Military Personnel

conscripts [by recruiting campaign]
YearSpringAutumnTotal
2003175 050175 806350,856
2004166 050176 393342,443
2005157 700140 900298,600
2006124 550123 310247,860
2007133 500132 500266,000
2008133 200219 000352,200
2009305 560271 020576,580
2010270 600278 821549,421
2011218 720135 850354,570
2012155570140 140295,710
2013153200
A total of 48 percent of Russians believe the military draft should remain a key source of manpower for the army, while 40 percent think only professional contract soldiers should serve, according to a survey published 18 February 2014 by the independent Levada Center. Almost half of Russians (48 percent) would like their children to serve in the army, while 33 percent would prefer to help their relatives dodge military service.

The country has struggled in recent years to fulfil quotas for conscripts due to widespread draft dodging and a scarcity of eligible young men, following a collapse in the birth rate during the turbulent 1990s. The military needs to enroll about 300,000 men during each draft to keep the number of army personnel at the required level of 1 million. According to official data, as of early 2014 the strength of the Russian Armed Forces was estimated at 774,500 personnel, including 220,000 officers and about 200,000 contracted soldiers.

The issue of gradually replacing Russia's ineffectual conscription system with a volunteer force has brought heated discussion in the defense establishment. The task of creation of military units of permanent readiness is being tackled; however, the problem of sustaining their permanent combat readiness has remained unsolved, as the Armed Forces are still and will, through 2020, manned with conscripts at 65%. Having served in the army for one year, they demobilize, are replaced by rookies, and unit cohesion vanishes.

All Russian men between the ages of 18 and 27 are obliged by law to perform one year of military service. According to official data, the strength of the Russian Armed Forces was estimated in 2012 at 774,500 personnel, including 220,000 officers and about 200,000 contracted soldiers. The military needed to recruit about 300,000 men during each annual draft to keep the number of personnel at the required level of 1 million. The Russian Defense Ministry said in October 2012 that the armed forces will continue to rely on conscription in the coming years and there are no plans to do away with the draft anytime soon. Contract service personnel will be deployed with units designated for the highest degree of readiness and those that employ complex and expensive technologies, such as the Navy, the Strategic Missile Forces and the Aerospace Defense Forces. The number of contract service members is to increase by about 50,000 a year to 240,000 at the end of 2013, 295,000 in 2014, 350,000 in 2015, 400,000 in 2016 and 425,000 in 2017, when contractors will account for over half of all military personnel.

Russian draftees will not take part in combat operations, a top Russian defense official said 15 February 2013. There is no talk of draftees participation in combat operations or military conflicts, Russian General Staff Chief Col. Gen. Valery Gerasimov said while commenting on a recent presidential decree cutting the duration of combat training programs. These tasks will be fulfilled solely by contract servicemen, Gerasimov, who is also a deputy Russian defense minister, said.

For a number of objective and subjective reasons, the Defense Ministry experienced serious difficulties in calling up civilians for military service. Of the total number of conscription-age citizens on military lists, only 9.1% were conscripted in 2005 (compared to 27% in 1994). All the other potential conscripts were exempted from military service on lawful grounds, or had the right to deferments from conscription.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said 09 November 2013 that a key purpose of the current military reform in the country is to make the Russian army a highly mobile and professional force capable of responding rapidly and efficiently to any security threat. He said, however, that Russia will never have a fully professional army because it would be hard to maintain it. The territory of our country is too big to maintain a fully professional force, but we should be able to mobilize our resources in case of a threat, the minister said. Shoigu said earlier that 205,000 professional soldiers currently serve in the armed forces and their number will gradually increase in the next seven years. The Defense Ministry has previously announced plans to reach a target of 425,000 professional soldiers, or almost half of the armed forces, by 2017, with an annual recruitment and retention of about 50,000 contract personnel.

Since the early 2000s no young men from Chechnya, and only a few from other North Caucasus republics, had been drafted. That ban has been lifted: as of the fall 2014 draft, 500 Chechens would be inducted, with priority going to university graduates. The figure would rise to 1,000 in 2015. The planned total number of draftees from the North Caucasus Federal District in the fall of 2014 is 4,100, of whom 2,000 would come from Daghestan, 600 from Kabardino-Balkaria, and 500 from Ingushetia.

Military service became particularly unpopular in Russia in the mid-1990s. Under conditions of intense political and social uncertainty, the traditional appeal to Russian patriotism no longer resonated among Russia's youth. The percentage of draft-age youth who entered the armed forces dropped from 32 percent in 1994 to 20 percent in 1995. The Law on Military Service stipulated twenty-one grounds for draft exemption, but in many cases eligible individuals simply refuse to report; in July 1996, a report in the daily Pravda referred to a "daily boycott of the draft." In the first half of 1995, about 3,000 conscripts deserted, and in all of 1995 between 50,000 and 70,000 inductees refused to report. According to a 1996 Russian report, such personnel deficiencies meant that only about ten of Russia's sixty-nine ground forces divisions were prepared for combat. The armed forces responded to manpower shortages by extending the normal two-year period of active-duty service of those already in uniform; only about 19,000 of the approximately 230,000 troops scheduled for discharge in December 1994 were released on time.

The two most compelling reasons for the failure of conscription in the mid-1990s were the unfavorable living conditions and pay of soldiers (less than US$1 per month at 1995 exchange rates) and the well-publicized and extremely unpopular Chechnya operation. The Russian tradition of hazing in the ranks, which became more violent and was much more widely reported in the 1990s, also contributed to society's antipathy toward military service. By 1996 the approval rating of the military as a social institution had slipped to as little as 20 percent, far below the approval ratings achieved in the Soviet era. Although by 1996 Russia's armed forces were less than one-third the size they reached at their Cold War peak in the mid-1980s, there still was a need for large numbers of personnel who were appropriately matched to their assigned duties and who could be motivated to serve conscientiously.

The semi-annual draft, which set about 200,000 as its regular quota in the mid-1990s with a term of active duty two years, has been an abysmal failure in the post-Soviet era because of evasion and desertion. During evaluation of an initial, experimental contract plan, in May 1996 Yeltsin unexpectedly proposed the filling of all personnel slots in the armed forces with contract personnel by 2000. In 1996 some units already were more than half staffed by contract personnel, and an estimated 300,000 individuals, about 20 percent of the total nominal active force, were serving under contract. At that time, more than half of new contractees were women.

But the main obstacle to achieving Yeltsin's goal was funding. To attract competent contract volunteers, pay and benefits must be higher than those offered to conscripts. Already in early 1996, a reported 50,000 contract personnel had broken their contracts because of low pay and poor housing, and many commanders expressed dissatisfaction with the work of those who remained. In mid-1996 a final decision on the use of volunteers awaited discussion in the State Duma and a possible challenge in the Constitutional Court.

In Novmber 2003 Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a package of legislative amendments creating the legal foundations for CIS citizens to serve in the Russian army on a contract basis. This opportunity would be offered to people aged 18-30 from CIS countries as early as January 1, 2004, when the Russian armed forces move on from an experiment in the 76th airborne division to full-scale professional enlistment. The military believed that the appearance of foreigners in the army and navy will help to fill more quickly the 147,578 vacancies that were to be taken up in permanently combat ready units before 2008.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov promoted substantial transformations within the Defense Ministry in 2006. Under his leadership, the Defense Ministry announced that permanent combat readiness units would be converted to mostly contract-based recruitment, and conscription terms would be reduced to 12 months from January 1, 2008. The transition to one-year service terms will make it necessary to conscript twice as many people. Ivanov promised the public to stop sending conscripts to hot-spots (for that purpose we have permanent combat readiness units, made up of contract personnel). A project was launched to introduce a fundamentally new system for the Defense Ministry to provide housing for military personnel: based on mortgages. Public oversight structures have been established: the Public Chamber and parents' committees for military units. Some Defense Ministry initiatives were unpopular - such as revising the number of conscription deferments and grounds for exemption, and cutting the number of military cadet faculties.

In 2006, Ivanov said "We support reducing the number of grounds for exemption from military service and conscription deferments. At present there are 25 of them, and they can be divided into four basic groups: deferments for education, social reasons, employment reasons, and medical grounds. Some of the social deferments will be retained. All of the deferments for health reasons will be retained. I'd go even further: I support tightening health requirements for conscripts. As for deferments for employment reasons, I think there should be almost none of those - and the first steps toward abolishing them are already being taken. However, there won't be any sweeping abolition of grounds for exemption from military service or conscription deferments. I'd like to point out that we're only planning to abolish or change nine out of 25 grounds and deferments."

In April 2007 Colonel General Vasily Smirnov, the head of the mobilization directorate of the General Staff, told reporters that there was a way out of the complicated situation and rejected the possibility that the 24-month conscription term will return in the future. Smirnov said that simultaneously with cutting the conscription term, the new legislation will reduce the number of official reasons that potential draftees could claim a deferment (from 25 to 21). "This way we will get about 100,000 men in the draft... and this quantity is sufficient for manning the Russian military," the general told RIA Novosti. This year, the General Staff planned to enlist 132,300 thousand men, he said.

The Russian Armed Forces were never planned to be all-volunteer, the top general in charge of mobilization said 27 April 2007. "No such plans have ever been on the table. The history, economy and geography of our state, with its lengthy land borders, means that a mixed force is a necessity," Lt. Gen. Vladimir Konstantinov, head of the Mobilization Directorate, said. He said more than half the personnel should be conscripted. "The real challenge is to create military service conditions that would be competitive on the labor market. So far, they are not. Only 14-15% of volunteers extend their first contract," he said. In 2006, 47,000 volunteers were enlisted and about as many discharged, he said. Konstantinov put the number of enlisted volunteers in the fighting force at roughly 197,000. Under a new law adopted to speed up the transition to a volunteer force, those conscripted in 2007 year will serve 18 months, down from 24 months until 2006. As of 2008, those conscripted will serve only 12 months. While enlisted men's wages, depending on the armed service, can be from about 8,000 rubles ($300) in the Ground Forces to 13,000 rubles ($500) in the Navy per month, the average wage in the country was about 11,000 rubles ($430) last September, up 24.3%, year-on-year.

Officers make up 30% of our armed forces personnel, while in the armies of the major countries the figure is 16%. We do not consider such a number of officers in our army as quite normal, said Colonel General Vasily Smirnov, deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces. As of September 2008 about 300 foreigners served in the Russian army. The Deputy Chief-of-General-Staff Vasily Smirnov said that these young people are basically from the Commonwealth of Independent States. Among these are 80 Tadjiks, 66 Uzbeks and 40 Ukrainians. After serving 3 years voluntarily, a contract-soldier can get the full-pledged Russian citizenship.

On 18 October 2008 Chief of General Staff Nikolay Makarov said the Russian armed forces will be reduced from 1.13m to 1m people under a modernization plan. Makarov said the autumn conscription was going according to plan. "Our only little worry is about years 2012-2014" because there was a demographic trough 18-20 years ago. "Since 2001, our conscription pool has been halved. But we hope by that time [2012-2014], by increasing the salaries of contract servicemen by 100 or 200 per cent, we will be able to attract more contract servicemen," Makarov said. "At the moment, 80 per cent of the armed forces are officers and warrant officers," he said. Makarov outlined five major points of the reform: the armed forces will be reduced to 1m people; the share of officers should not be more than 15 per cent, i.e. 150,000 officers; all units will be put on permanent readiness; allowances for officers will be increased; new ways of thinking will be introduced in the army.

About 320,000 young men are to be drafted into the Russian Armed Forces in the fall of 2009, a deputy chief of the General Staff said on 21 July 2009. "According to our estimates, about 320,000 people will be conscripted into the Russian Armed Forces this fall," Col. Gen. Vasily Smirnov said. Only 133,000 conscripts joined the armed forces during the spring draft, and about 219,000 people were drafted in fall 2008. The general said the higher number of conscripts was due to the reduction of officer ranks, the scrapping the rank of warrant officers and cuts to contract personnel. As of January 1, 2009, the Russian Armed Forces numbered 355,000 officers and 140,000 warrant officers. "By the end of 2009, we will have 150,000 officers, all warrant officers will have been discharged or absorbed into other ranks, and we will have less contracted personnel," Smirnov said.

The Russian Armed Forces will continue using a mixture of conscripts and contracted recruits for the next 10-15 years, President Dmitry Medvedev said on 04 April 2011. Russia is in the process of reforming its armed forces by shifting the focus away from a largely inefficient body of conscripted soldiers toward a smaller professional army. The current length of military service for draftees is one year, while the shortest term of a military service contract is three years. "I believe that in the next 10-15 years, our recruiting system should combine both conscription and contracting," Medvedev said at a meeting with paratroopers at a military base near Moscow. "We should do everything possible to make contract service attractive and prestigious." In line with the reform, the armed forces will be downsized to 1 million personnel by 2016. Deputy Chief of the General Staff Vasily Smirnov said the reformed forces would be made up of 220,000 officers, 425,000 contract servicemen and 300,000 conscript soldiers. The Russian military is planning to raise the number of professional soldiers in the Armed Forces to 450,000 by 2017.

Russia has no conscript-age young men left to recruit, Russia's chief of the General Staff complained 17 November 2011. The current conscript service crisis in the Russian Armed Forces was mainly due to demographic decline, bullying and brutal treatment of conscripts. General Nikolai Makarov said only 11.7% of young men aged 18-27 were eligible for the army service but 60% of them had health problems and could not be drafted under law. "We now have a situation when there is virtually nobody left to draft," Makarov said. "It is a serious problem and I make no bones about it." Many young people have been known to fake medical documents or even start a family in order to avoid the 12-month compulsory service in the army. The crisis in the consript service has led the Defense Ministry to halve the number of conscripts in the autumn 2011 draft period. It would recruit 135,850 young men instead of 250-300,000, as was planned in spring. The effect of the 1990s demographic crisis is expected to reach its peak in 2014, experts said.

The General Staff reported in mid-March 2013 that more than 244,000 draft-age men dodged conscription in 2012. Some 8,794 Russian men received their call-up papers but did not show up at the recruitment office as required, which is a criminal offense that carries a prison term of up to two years under Russian law. In addition, some 235,800 men dodged the draft in 2012 by avoiding being handed their call-up papers, which is an administrative offense in Russia. Military officials are obliged to notify potential recruits that they are eligible for the draft as soon as they reach the age of 18. Many young men use falsified medical documents, notify the authorities they are still enrolled in higher education (those in higher education are exempt from the draft) or pay bribes to avoid the 12-month period of service. Potential draftees are eligible for conscription until the age of 27. Russia is forecast to have a falling number of potential draftees due to the country's aging demographic profile, with the lowest number of available recruits expected between 2016 and 2020.

Russias military will have 500,000 soldiers serving on professional contracts within a decade, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said 10 December 2013. Half of the armed forces will be made up of professional service personnel by 2022 under plans to shift away from conscripts and more than double the number of contract soldiers from the present 220,000. But Shoigu also acknowledged at an expanded meeting of the Defense Ministry Board that Russias armed forces are currently short of nearly one in five troops. At present, the Russian military has 82 percent of the required manpower, Shoigu said. We have prioritized full manning of airborne, special forces, naval infantry and peacekeeping units, including those involved in ensuring security during the Winter Olympics in Sochi.




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