Vienna, January 27 – Some 200,000 young Russians avoided military service this fall, an indication that the draft in the Russian Federation has become so unpopular that Moscow can save the situation only by employing ever more repressive measures or providing a massive infusion of new funds for the armed services, according to a Russian analyst.
In an article in “Svobodnaya pressa” yesterday, Sergey Ishchenko points out that the number of young men who avoided the draft this past fall could have formed 40 motorized rifle brigades -- not to mention the number of units that could be in existence if those avoiding service in earlier rounds of the draft had gone into the military (svpressa.ru/society/article/37644/).
It is clear to all, Ishchenko says, that something must be done “immediately,” but there is no agreement on just what. Propaganda efforts like posters saying “The Motherland Calls!” no longer attract young men to service but indicate to them that they need to find ways of avoiding going into the military.
“Whether anyone likes it or not,” he continues, “there are ever fewer moral stimulus for service in Russia.” And despite what it claims to be doing the defense ministry and the high command are in fact contributing to this, eliminating important symbols in the name of economy or efficiency.
Given this “current Russian army reality,” Ishchenko argues, there can be only “one way out” of the current impasse: “If the system takes away moral stimulus for military service, it is simply obligated to replace them with material ones.” In short, “the market” should determine what happens.
Given that the soldier’s work is “one of the most difficult and dangerous,” that means that he or she must be paid “not three kopecks a day as now” but rather more. That does not mean that the military needs to go over to a professional body but rather that “it is necessary to pay draftees not a little money.”
That is the conclusion of Mikhail Kozminykh, the human rights ombudsman for Leningrad oblast, who recent proposed talking about “soldiers’ capital” on the basis of an analogy with the much discussed “mothers’ capital” that the Russian government has begun to pay in an effort to boost the country’s birthrate.
Kozminykh told “Svobodnaya pressa” that he came up with the idea on the basis of his own past experience in the military and of conversations with draftees and the families they left behind, many of whom could not find jobs or feared that they would not be able to re-enter the workforce after discharge.
It came to me, the ombudsman said, that “the state which has called up a young person from his customary milieu is obligated to take upon itself part of the problems which arise with him as a result. How to do this in the best way? There is the experience with ‘mothers’ capital.” And that provided a model, Kozminykh said.
The Leningrad official said that he has proposed paying soldiers an amount equal to half of the amount given to mothers. That would be “somewhere near 170,000 rubles [6,000 US dollars] for a year of service. If the draftee has a family, the money should be transferred at the time of his drafting. If not, it should go to him afterwards, Kozminykh added.
In addition, the ombudsman said that the draft age should be increased from 18 to 21. At 18, many are “still children.” Three years later, “they become real men,” and that means that they will deal with their responsibilities “in a different way,” one that would benefit both the military and society far more.
Multiplying the amount Kozminykh proposes by the number of draftees in the Russian military would yield a large budgetary line, but the ombudsman said that he was prepared to support increasing the budget to handle it. If such a step is not taken, Moscow will either have to use force to push people into the military or face more problems with filling the ranks.