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Moderator: This article is essential reading to understand why brutal hazing in the Russian military has contributed to severe moral issues.
The recruitment problems The long war in Chechnya made urgent a military reform thet resulted ill-fated
In July 2006, President Putin signed a new law requiring that, starting in 2007, all Russian male draftees serve 18 months in the armed forces (down from the prior requirement of 24 months), except for certain occupations in the Navy, which require a longer term of service. The long-awaited Law on Alternative Service which the Duma passed in mid-2002, came into force in January 2004. It formally allows genuine conscientious objectors the right to undertake other forms of public employment instead of military service. In practice, however, the law’s stiff provisions discourage draftees from using it. The legislation requires several years of low-paid public service and participants have little say in their place or type of employment. The authorities also reject many applications. Today, less than one thousand Russians undertake formal alternative service. The government has pledged to reduce the term of service for new conscripts to 1 year starting in January 2008, with 6 months of training at a military base and 6 months of service in an operational military unit. Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov has warned, however, that cutting in half the service commitment without increasing the number of volunteers could require drafting approximately twice as many conscripts— perhaps half a million per year. Many analysts doubt that Russia can achieve this figure given its already staggering recruitment problems.
Experts also expect the pool of available manpower to decrease drastically as a result of Russia’s 20-year demographic crisis. The country has experienced plunging birth and soaring death rates, a sharp deterioration in living conditions and medical care, and a surge in chronic health problems among draft-eligible youth. Russia’s Muslim minorities continue to have large families, but the growing percentage of Muslim recruits represents a mixed blessing due to their lower educational levels and potential susceptibility to radical Islamic doctrines. The unpopular war in Chechnya and frequent media reports of hazing and other abuses within the military have amplified Russia’s recruitment problems.
Today, only about 1 in 10 eligible men actually receive induction into the Russian armed forces. For example, the spring 2004 draft yielded only 9.5 percent of those potentially available for military service. An extraordinarily large number of potential draftees either receive legal exemptions (for reasons of health, education, etc.) or dodge the draft by feigning illness; buying phony educational deferments; going underground; or, most commonly, by bribing members of medical, university admission, or draft board commissions. The individuals unable to exploit these loopholes have tended to be less affluent, educated, and healthy than the average Russian male. They also have been more prone to drug use and other criminal behavior, making it difficult for their commanders to maintain discipline or conduct training. As a result, less than one out of three inductees graduate from boot camp. Ivanov himself has expressed concern over the military reverting to a Bolshevik-era army of “workers and peasants” since everyone else manages to avoid serving. Poor living conditions, frequent harassment of new recruits by second-year conscripts (known as dedovschina, or “rule of the granddads”), and other problems engender widespread dissatisfaction within the ranks and frequent desertions. Whenever the MOD, hoping to improve the number and quality of servicemen, has moved to eliminate or reduce exemptions to conscription, sharp public and media reactions have forced its retreat. Surveys show that the Russian public overwhelmingly supports ending conscription and introducing other major reforms, even at the price of higher defense spending.