Category Archives: Conscription

A Year Does Not a Soldier Make

Krasnaya zvezda always has interesting Internet polling.  Yes, Internet.  Not a scientific opinion survey based on valid sampling and a mathematically acceptable margin of error.

We’re talking about Russia here.  We take what we can get.

KZ asked its readers whether the current year of conscript service is sufficient to make a real soldier.  Not surprisingly, 601 of more than 800 respondents said no, it isn’t.  Only 71 said unequivocally yes, it’s enough.

KZ's Results

KZ’s Results

Being the MOD’s daily paper, KZ’s readership is mostly those in the Russian armed forces, or those somehow interested in them.

The MOD wasn’t happy about the shift to the one-year draft several years ago. But it had no alternative facing the twin pressures of rising draft evasion and increasing violence and other abuse in military units.  At least 12-month conscription helped alleviate both of those problems if it didn’t do anything for the military’s readiness.

Hence, the great renewed stress on trying to sign up contract enlistees.

Health of the Force

The confluence of recent news stories makes an update on the health of Russian military forces opportune.  As elsewhere in the armed forces, the military’s medical situation seems generally better compared with two or three years ago.

According to Izvestiya, the chief of the Main Military-Medical Directorate (GVMU), General-Major Aleksandr Fisun told the Defense Ministry’s Public Council that illnesses in the army declined 13 percent in 2013.  The illness rate in 2012 had been 40 percent higher than 2011.

The MOD attributes the improvement to better living conditions for soldiers. These include heated barracks, washing machines, shower facilities allowing troops to clean up more than once a week, and socks replacing foot wrappings.

Fisun said, among conscripts, 60 percent of illnesses were respiratory in nature, while about 14 percent involved skin conditions.

Better training for commanders was another factor in cutting the number of sick soldiers.  An MOD spokesman told the paper:

“Work in early identification of illnesses was reinforced — commanders were strictly ordered to send subordinates for initial observation on just the suspicion of an illness.  The condition of everyone hospitalized was reported to [military] district commands.”

Valentina Melnikova of the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers (KSM) told Izvestiya commanders have been the problem.  However, she said Defense Minister Shoygu has said any soldier not allowed to see a doctor can now turn to military prosecutors for help.

Bmpd.livejournal.com published Fisun’s pie charts from his presentation to the MOD’s Public Council.

Disease Incidence Among Servicemen

Disease Incidence Among Servicemen

There are separate pies for conscripts and contractees.  Respiratory diseases, however, were the largest problem for both groups, accounting for half or more of illnesses.

Fisun also presented data on fitness for service among this spring’s conscripts.

Health of Conscripts in the Spring 2014 Draft

Health of Conscripts in the Spring 2014 Draft

The tabular data shows an increasing number of young men are fit, or fit with insignificant limitations, to serve in the armed forces (73.4%).  Most of that improvement apparently comes directly from decreasing the number of potential soldiers considered to have limited fitness for service (21.6%).

Reasons for “liberating” citizens from serving were pretty evenly distributed among, in order, muscular-skeletal and connective tissue diseases, psychiatric disorders (drug addiction, alcoholism), digestive system diseases, circulatory diseases, nervous system diseases, and other.

KSM’s Melnikova told Interfaks-AVN that illness was still the major issue for young men facing the spring draft.  She indicated 80 percent of complaints coming into KSM concern unfit men who were drafted.

In Moscow, some conscripts with documented health conditions  were deferred until fall under additional medical observation, but others were told they have to serve now, and had to turn to the courts for relief.

Meanwhile, the GVMU is reportedly amending physical standards for Russian Spetsnaz and VDV soldiers.  It’s lowering the height requirement by 5 cm (2 inches), and increasing the weight limit by 10 kg (22 pounds), according to Izvestiya.

Spetsnaz and VDV may soon be as short as 165 cm (5’4″) and weigh 100 kg (220 pounds).  The new standards will apply for conscripts, contractees, and military academy cadets.

Physical Standards for Airborne Troops Will Be Relaxed Somewhat (photo: Izvestiya / Kirill Zykov)

Physical Standards for Airborne Troops to be Relaxed Somewhat (photo: Izvestiya / Kirill Zykov)

Izvestiya was told a Defense Ministry order officially putting these standards into effect is expected in 2-3 months.  Its VDV source said the increased weight limit is related to use of the newer D-10 parachute which can bear up to 120 kg, so it can support a heavier jumper along with 20 kg of gear.

Perhaps the last, best word comes from Ruslan Pukhov, independent expert and Public Council member.  According to Izvestiya, he recommends increased spending on rear support and logistics, even if it means less expenditure on armaments:

“It’s worth sacrificing a couple nuclear submarines or refraining from construction of corvettes , but don’t economize on people — on their food, medical care and pay.  Iron doesn’t fight, people fight.”

766,055

That number — 766,055 — is how many officers and soldiers Russia’s Audit Chamber says were paid to serve in the armed forces on 1 January 2013, according to RIA Novosti.

This confirms what’s been said by various military commentators over the past year or so.  Several said about 750,000 or below 800,000.

The Audit Chamber is a quasi-independent and pretty reliable source, something akin to America’s GAO.

Walk this back . . . take 766,055 and subtract 220,000 officers, 186,000 contractees reported at the beginning of 2013, spring 2013 and fall 2012 draft contingents of 153,200 and 140,140, and you are left with 66,715.

That leftover number roughly corresponds to cadets in VVUZy.

Undermanning — below the statutory authorization of one million — has been confirmed officially.

This is the truest, most accurate manpower baseline we’re likely to see.

Draft Details (Addendum or Draft Board Storming)

One must report the apparently contradictory along with the confirmatory . . . Mil.ru has reported GOMU’s final results for the spring 2013 callup.

GOMU indicates that, as of 12 July, it summoned more than 700,000 draft-age males, with more than 692,000 appearing as requested.

The order to induct 153,200 men in President Putin’s decree was, of course, fully accomplished.

It must have been hard getting 118,000 men in front of draft commissions during the final ten days of the callup.

Это какой-то штурм . . . .

Draft Details

New Conscripts Depart for the Army (photo: Mil. ru)

New Conscripts Depart for the Army (photo: Mil.ru)

Another posting hiatus officially ends.

A recent Defense Ministry press-release on the conclusion of this spring’s draft campaign contained the following:

“According to the situation as of 2 July 2013, more than 582,800 men were summoned to proceedings connected with the call-up, to which more than 574,900 citizens came.”

President Putin’s March decree stipulated 153,200 men would be inducted into the armed forces in the first half of 2013.

We’ve not often seen figures on the number of young Russian men receiving a summons to appear at local draft commissions during conscription campaigns.

A check turned up only two more recent instances where the summons number was specified:

  • In fall 2012, 556,000 were summoned and 545,000 came against an induction target of 140,140.
  • In fall 2008, more than 800,000 were summoned against a target of 219,000.

The drop from 800,000+ to 500,000+ illustrates the abrupt break in the number of men liable to conscription which occurred between 2008 and 2013, i.e. the “demographic hole” caused by lower birthrates in the 1990s.

Still, it shows consistency — it appears the Defense Ministry (if it meets its induction target) conscripts 25 percent of the men it summons to draft commissions.

And the difference between summonses and appearances shows what looks like the number of draft evaders for that half year (i.e. 8,000 or 11,000).

It’s interesting to compare the summons number to the number of available 18-year-old males.

The data below came from the U.S. Census Bureau, but the birth year in the left column was changed to indicate the year group will turn (or turned) 18.  The age column is the year group’s age in 2013.  According to this, you can see the nadir of the “hole” doesn’t come until 2018 and the climb out is long and slow.  The number of males born doesn’t even return to the level of 1990 (shown here as 2008) until some time after 2031.

Draft Age Males, 2008-2031

Draft Age Males, 2008-2031

So, this spring the Defense Ministry summoned 582,800 men against 718,070 available 18-year-olds.  Obviously, a significant number of those summoned are probably 19, 20, etc., and were summoned before, in 2012 or earlier.  And presumably, some who will be, but aren’t yet, 18 this year can’t be summoned until the fall 2013 draft.

The point being that the draft net has to be expanded considerably to bring in two groups of nearly 600,000 (even with many repeaters) to be considered for military service.  And it’s clear many brought in for the second or third time have solid legal deferments.  Some of them are, of course, drafted later.  Witness the Defense Ministry’s fondness for citing the percentage of draftees with complete higher education.

But it’s certainly harder for the military to draft an older man than it is one just turning 18 this year.  Economically speaking, the marginal cost of inducting a 22- or 24-year-old is much higher.  It requires greater effort on the commissariat’s part and the average return on the time invested is much lower.

It’s hard to guess the mechanics of the draft, but here’s a whack.

As stated above, the Defense Ministry puts 582,800 men in front of draft boards to find 153,200 it will accept.  Of those 718,070 18-year-olds in 2013, presumably only half have birthdays allowing them to be drafted in the spring.  So, in a perfect world, that’s 359,035 of the men needed at the draft commission.  And 223,765 are still needed.

The Defense Ministry looks first to this year’s 19-year-olds.  There are 730,049 of them.  But many served, or will have served, in 2012-2013.  The draft campaigns last year inducted 155,570 and 140,140 for a total of 295,710 men.

Here’s where real guesswork begins.  If 200,000 18-year-olds were drafted last year, there are only potentially 530,049 19-year-olds to send some of those other 223,765 summonses to this year.  And if deferred, their deferments probably still hold this year.  And the undrafted 19-year-olds will probably need to be summoned again in fall 2013 even though another 359,035 men will turn 18 in the second half of the year.  Those 19-year-olds might be considered for induction in place of some large number of 18-year-olds already picked for the military in the spring.

But you get the picture of how rapidly the military’s human resources diminish.

Bye Mom (photo: Mil.ru)

Bye Mom (photo: Mil.ru)

It’s far from a complete picture, but an interesting and essential part of the Russian military manpower dilemma.

Of course, the Defense Ministry has the long-term answer for its declining conscription resources:  professional contract service.  The trick there is to make it work.

Gerasimov Speaks

Gerasimov on RF Defense Priorities

Gerasimov on RF Defense Priorities

On Thursday, General Staff Chief and First Deputy Defense Minister, General-Colonel Valeriy Gerasimov spoke about RF defense priorities at a conference on Russia’s military security in the 21st century.  The meeting was organized by Duma and Federation Council defense committees.

Gerasimov largely repeated earlier official statements, but added a few comments that might be significant for what they left out.

Strategic nuclear forces are, of course, Russia’s priority.  He mentioned acquiring Topol-M, Yars, and SSBNs, modernizing Tu-160 and Tu-95MS bombers, and getting satellite systems for VVKO, according to Krasnaya zvezda’s recap of his remarks.

For conventional forces, among other things, Gerasimov said VTA will get 200 new transports, and the Ground Troops and VDV new heavy, medium, and light armor using the Armata, Kurganets, and Bumerang platforms, respectively.

The VKO system for protecting important state and industrial facilities will be formed in 2016-2020.  Mobile S-500 brigades will have this mission.  Troop air defense will be the responsibility of SAM brigades equipped with the S-300V and Buk-M3.

All Ground Troops missile brigades will have the Iskander.

The new NGSh declared that, since the 2008 decision to make “cardinal changes” in the Armed Forces, the share of new types of arms in the army has increased from six to 16 percent.

He apparently didn’t say anything about a new strategic bomber or surface combatants beyond frigates.

On the possibility of Russia being dragged into armed conflicts by 2030, Gerasimov said the level of existing and potential military danger will increase because of competition for energy resources and trade.  He nodded to net-centric and information warfare saying they are a new fourth dimension for conflict.

Gerasimov addressed non-military warfare:

“The role of non-military means of achieving political and strategic aims, which in a number of cases significantly surpass military means in effectiveness, has grown.”

“They expand clandestine military measures, and include informational confrontation measures, the actions of special operations forces, the use of the population’s protest potential.”

Also on Thursday, Gerasimov was asked about President Putin reducing the requirement for six months of military training to four before conscripts can be sent into combat.

According to RIA Novosti, the NGSh essentially said no one should worry about this because contractees would be used in combat.  Russia now has three brigades fully manned by contractees in the North Caucasus. 

He linked the reduction to the current one-year draft, and more intense training that prepares draftees for combat in four months.  He also claimed outsourcing has relieved them of “non-core” functions.  This despite the fact that outsourcing has fallen from favor along with former Defense Minister Serdyukov. 

What Gerasimov didn’t say is that there’s no legal bar to using a Russian soldier with four months of service in a combat operation.

RIA Novosti printed criticism of the conference, and of Gerasimov by implication, from former United Russia party and Duma Defense Committee member Mikhail Nenashev: 

“Everything we heard at this event had already been said a million times before in different auditoriums:  all participants shrugged their shoulders as if to say where do they get these reports?  There was no content, no line of thought, just some lecture.  Therefore it was a ‘check the box’ conference.”

“So, unfortunately, it wasn’t an event for the level of the 21st century.  These were conversations like in some garrison house of officers.”

Gerasimov Says No Sharp Course Change

General-Colonel Gerasimov (photo: RIA Novosti / Sergey Pyatikov)

General-Colonel Gerasimov (photo: RIA Novosti / Sergey Pyatikov)

Gazeta.ru pieced together RIA Novosti clips of General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov’s session with foreign military attaches yesterday.

Gerasimov said army reforms begun by former Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov will be “corrected,” not radically altered:

“Anticipating your questions on the possibility of a sharp course change in military organizational development, I would note there won’t be one.  In 2008, the Russian Federation President clearly indicated development tasks for our army, they will be fulfilled.  Naturally, some issues are being subjected to certain correction accounting for deficiencies revealed.”

“Organizational development” is primarily (but not entirely) TO&E and force structure.

Gazeta reports Gerasimov said mixed conscript and contract manning will be preserved, and the one-year conscript service term won’t be increased as some would like.

The new NGSh said the Defense Ministry is creating its own element to track fulfillment of the state defense order (GOZ):

“And by the minister’s decision, a structure will be created in the Defense Ministry which allows for controlling not only the completion of contracts, but work in all phases of the production cycle.”

Serdyukov’s Defense Ministry had various organs with this responsibility, including Rosoboronzakaz, Rosoboronpostavka, etc.  How will the new structure be better?

Gazeta closes with expert opinions on the fate of reforms introduced by Serdyukov.  Igor Korotchenko says:

“We didn’t have Anatoliy Serdyukov’s reform, but a reform the main parameters of which were set by the president.  That is the military reform course will continue fully with the exception of some cases of deficiencies revealed in the military education system, military medicine, and the reinforcement of control procedures over the activity of those structures involved in armed forces outsourcing.”

Ever-skeptical Aleksandr Khramchikhin doesn’t think there was a coherent course to be changed:

“In the army reform, there wasn’t a clear plan of action, one won’t appear under the new defense minister.”

“I don’t think Shoygu’s Defense Ministry will try to correct the course of reform or introduce some fixes.  There is nothing to correct.  Serdyukov’s reform had no kind of course, it went by the trial and error method.  There are grounds to believe that Shoygu will act according to the same principle.”

There’s a long list of policies commentators think will or might be changed, but little so far officially.  A new category to replace Serdyukov’s Reforms is needed.  Maybe Shoygu’s Nuanced Corrections?