Monday, April 18, 2011

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Seeks to Reduce Concentrations of Muslim Soldiers in Military Units

Paul Goble

Staunton, April 18 – Concerned about the impact on draft resistance and military readiness of clashes between ethnic Russians and soldiers from the North Caucasus, the Russian defense ministry has cut the size of the draft quota for at least some North Caucasus republics and is working to prevent the concentration of North Caucasian soldiers in any military unit.

A meeting of the defense ministry’s public council last Thursday concluded that problems between soldiers from the North Caucasus and those from elsewhere reflect broader problems in the society, including the failure of the educational system to promote tolerance (

And as a long term solution, participants at that session, “Trud” reported, believe that the solution to such problems in the military will be the creation of a cadre of professional sergeants. But because the Russian military needs approximately 100,000 of them and is producing only about 500 a year, that solution will not be available anytime soon.

Consequently, as the Moscow paper reported, “the generals without advertising this have already found a solution to the problems by reducing the size of the draft from the Caucasus by an order of magnitude” and by working to ensure that draftees from that region will not be concentrated in particular units.

At the meeting, Nikita Mikhalkov, the well-known film director, sharply critized “not the defense ministry but the education ministry for the fact that it was not involved in the moral training of the younger generation and even, in his words had eliminated the use of the term moral training.”

He and other participants agreed that the military thus must rely on its own resources to address inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions and that “the main figure in the harmonization of inter-ethnic relations must be the sergeant who will spend all the time in the barracks and will know all the nuances in the behavior of his subordinates.”

But as Anatoly Tsyganok, the head of the Moscow Center of Military Prognostication, pointed out, the Russian military is producing too few sergeants to make a difference. At the current rate, he told the paper, it will be more than 200 years before there will be the number needed to make a difference.

Consequently, Russian commanders are seeking to reduce the presence of North Caucasians in the ranks. As Andrey Doroniin, the former deputy commander of the Moscow Military District noted, there exist “simpler means” of preventing such conflicts: North Caucasian soldiers “must not be concentrated in one place.”

And yet another means, “Trud” reported, is to reduce draft calls in the North Caucasus. “According to the information of the military commissariat of Daghetan, this year only 400 people will be called to service, compared to 4,000” who were drafted from the republic in the recent past.

This short-term “solution” entails at least two serious problems, however. On the one hand, it will make it more difficult for the military to fill the ranks because an ever-growing share of the draft-age cohort consists of people from the Muslim republics in general and the North Caucasus in particular.

Military commissariats in predominantly ethnic Russian regions will have to use ever more force to meet their quotas, and Russian parents and potential draftees will see themselves as paying a higher “tax” than those in non-Russian areas, exacerbating Russian nationalist attitudes toward non-Russians in Russian cities and toward non-Russian regions as a whole.

And on the other, any reduction in draft quotas in the North Caucasus will increase the rate of unemployment there, complicating Moscow’s efforts to overcome the problems that have contributed to a seemingly unending flow of young men into the forests to fight against the Russian regime.

Moreover, and this may be the most serious consequence of this unannounced policy, the decision to draft fewer non-Russians because of the problems they supposedly cause will lead ever more of them to view both the Russian military and Russia itself as being just as much an alien occupier as the Islamist militants insist that the two are.

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