Let’s continue our look at the just-completed fall draft before returning to the issue of contract service.
In Nezavisimaya gazeta, Sergey Konovalov counts 220,000 officers and 180,000 contractees at present, then quotes retired general Yuriy Netkachev:
“If we add the number of men called into the troops in the spring and fall of last year (135,900 [sic] and 218,000 lads respectively), then with authorized manning of the army and navy at one million men, undermanning is not less than 15%. Given such indicators, it doesn’t do to talk about the full combat readiness of the troops.”
With due respect to Netkachev, this adds up to just over 750,000 men in the RF Armed Forces. That would be 25 percent undermanning against a million-man army.
Konovalov cites KSMR’s Valentina Melnikova on legal violations in the recent draft. The fall call-up possibly set a record for rights violations even though it was the smallest post-Soviet draft. Melnikova claims 6,000 violations were reported — one for every 20 men inducted. And, according to Konovalov, prosecutorial data seems to support her number. The main violation was simply drafting guys not fit to serve. Melnikova believes commissariats did this consciously because it was the only way they could reach even relatively low target numbers.
Konovalov turns to military sociologist Colonel Eduard Rodyukov who worries that, following a precedent set in Chechnya, the Defense Ministry is not inducting men from Dagestan. Only 121 were inducted against the republic’s plan for 3,320. And those few entering the army appeared to be Slavs rather than Avars, Dargins, Kumyks, etc.
“This is unjust. In Moscow, to fulfill the call-up plan, they shave everyone for the army – both lame and near-sighted, but in Dagestan and Chechnya potential recruits are sent into the reserve [without serving as conscripts]. A peculiar Slavicization of military collectives is occurring, the structure of which doesn’t correspond to the country’s population. But the Russian Army is not an imperial army. It should be international [i.e. interethnic].”
Konovalov believes conscription’s been cut in other “hot” republics of the North Caucasus as well.
Let’s come back to a larger point where we started. If conscription of Caucasians has been pared for fear of having them in the ranks, overall conscription has been cut in favor of having 425,000 professional volunteers in the army by 2017.
The Defense Minister recently said he’d go as far as 90 percent contractees and only 10 percent conscripts in the Armed Forces if the budget allowed for it.
Viktor Baranets addresses, in understated fashion, the difficulty of going from about 180,000 contractees today to 425,000:
“But this requires enormous expenditures. A soldier or contract-sergeant also needs, besides uniforms, weapons, and corresponding social benefits, to be given good housing (and among them there are also many who are married).”
Yes, housing was a huge downfall of the 2003-2007 contract service effort. So was failure to recruit the right men, and make contract service truly different from being a conscript.
Baranets goes on to suggest G.I. bill-type benefits (privileged VUZ admittance, government hiring preferences, etc.) for Russia’s contractees.
But pay can’t be underestimated as the primary factor in whether the Russian Army can attract contractees this time.
In 2004, a newly-signed contractee might have gotten 10,000 rubles a month. After accounting for inflation, the Defense Ministry will have to pay at least 20,000 today to give enlisted the same deal.
General Staff Chief Makarov has talked about minimum pay of 23,000 — not much more than what was offered in 2004 after inflation. As always, much depends on the supplements and bonuses an individual serviceman receives.
Contract pay may be better than it was. But it’s going to be, as Baranets said, an enormous expense. We’ll have to see if it’s an affordable and sustainable one.