Category Archives: Conscription

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?

A Conscript’s Year

A Picture for Ufimtsev’s Demob Album

Young Komsomolskaya pravda (Chelyabinsk) journalist Sergey Ufimtsev returned from conscript service in May.  He recently published a cheerful, humorous account of time as a soldier.  He doesn’t regret his wasted year in the army.  But he describes an army that Serdyukov’s (and Putin’s) reforms have not changed substantially.  At least not his remote unit, and probably many others as well.

Ufimtsev drew his ill-fitting uniform items and was sent to Ussuriysk in the Far East.  He describes skimpy rations which left him hungry again an hour later.

Officers left Ufimtsev and other new soldiers largely in the hands of senior conscripts, the dedy.  They still exist despite the fact that one-year conscription was supposed to eliminate them.  Ufimtsev says dedy took their new uniforms and cigarettes, and threatened them at times.  But they weren’t really so bad.  He actually learned from the soldiers who’d been around for six months.

The non-Russians, Tuvans and Dagestanis, in the unit and their petty exactions were worse.  Even officers feared them, according to Ufimtsev.

He goes on to describe training in his air defense battalion.  He got bloody blisters from endless close-order drill, and finally received his unloaded AK-74, which he cleaned often but never fired.  It was kept with others under seven locks in the weapons storage room.

This is why Serdyukov didn’t want to buy new automatic weapons for the army.  It already has massive stockpiles of unused ones.

Ufimtsev says he and his cohorts were kept busy with non-military work.  Money to hire civilians into housekeeping jobs apparently hadn’t reached his unit.  His battery commander took most of their meager monthly personal allowance (about $13) to go to “the needs of the sub-unit.”  The soldiers, mostly farm boys or technical school graduates, wore lice-infested underwear and got to bathe once per month.  The situation improved some when a new major took command, according to Ufimtsev.

Ufimtsev’s article drew so many comments that it’s possible only to summarize.

A few readers were critical of today’s youth.  One called them dolts, who cry to mom and dad, and wimps, not defenders of the fatherland.  Another says real men should be silent about the privations of army life.

Many readers drew the obvious conclusion that the author’s experience shows Russia needs an all-volunteer army.

One reader said, in a couple of months at home, he could train soldiers better for less.  He asks, “What’s the sense in such an army?”  Several commentators remarked that generals’ complaints about a lack of money for recruiting career military professionals is a lie.

One reader put it in the context of Yevgeniya Vasilyeva and the Oboronservis scandal that brought down Anatoliy Serdyukov:

“No, they won’t do away with conscription.  There’s no money.  They lost their conscience in their 13-room apartments and can’t find it.  But then they never will.  They have to decide which of 120 diamond rings to wear today.  Therefore, there’s no money for a professional army, and there won’t be.  And so there will be an army of slaves — it’s so expedient and cheap.”

Army Polls

Happy Defender’s Day!

Taking a break from Putin’s defense manifesto, let’s look at this year’s opinion polls on the army’s big holiday.

Levada’s poll is not so interesting this year.  Responses to its questions generally fell within the 3.4 percent margin of error of last year’s survey

But the number of respondents who thought drafted family members should find a way to avoid serving fell from 41 to 36 percent this year. 

People also indicated a slightly greater belief that dedovshchina is more prevalent in the army.  This year 19 percent think it happens everywhere  against 13 percent in 2011.  Those believing it occurs in a small number of military units dipped from 27 to 23 percent this year.

VTsIOM’s results were actually a little more interesting.

The agency reported again this year that 55 percent of respondents felt the Russian Army is capable of defending the country against a military threat.  But on the current training of troops, 30 percent saw positive tendencies, 30 percent negative tendencies, and 29 percent said they don’t see any changes.

A surprising 68 percent, according to VTsIOM, believe the level of outfitting of Russian forces with modern arms and equipment is average or higher.  Still, 72 percent feel equipping the army with more modern weapons is needed to increase combat readiness (?!).

Some 68 percent of respondents were aware, to one degree or another, of Russia’s military reforms.  Sixty-seven percent consider them essential.

VTsIOM, unfortunately, didn’t publish its exact questions and responses to each; it just aggregates its results in a verbal description.

But it did show us one full question.  Are the transformations introduced into the Armed Forces essential or not essential for increasing the army’s combat capability?  The answers:

  • Essential but insufficient — 55 percent.
  • Essential and sufficient — 12 percent.
  • Not essential, better to end them — 8 percent.
  • Hard to answer — 24 percent.

Putin and the Army (Part II)

Putin Eating with Soldiers

Continuing with Prime Minister Putin’s latest pre-election article on the army . . . Russia Today published a translated version.

Describing the army’s “social dimension,” Putin says a modern army requires well-trained officers and soldiers on whom more demands can be placed.  And they, in turn, deserve pay commensurate with that of specialists and managers elsewhere in the economy.

Hence, the new pay system for officers this year which practically tripled their remuneration.

Putin mentions that military pensions were increased 1.6 times (60 percent), and he promises they will now increase annually by not less than 2 percent over inflation.

Retired or dismissed servicemen will get a “special certificate” good for further education or for retraining.

Then Putin tackles the painful military housing issue.  After recounting its history, he says, in 2008-2011, the army obtained or constructed 140,000 permanent and 46,000 service apartments.  But he admits:

“. . . despite the fact that the program turned out to be larger in scale than earlier planned, the problem still wasn’t resolved.”

He says the accounting of officers needing apartments was conducted poorly, org-shtat measures [dismissals] weren’t coordinated with the presentation of housing, and the situation has to be corrected.

Putin is, of course, alluding to the fact that maybe 30,000 or 80,000 of those 140,000 apartments the Defense Ministry acquired or built remain unoccupied.  But he’s not exactly tackling the problem head-on.

Putin says the “eternal” permanent and service apartment problems will finally be resolved in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

But in mid-December, in his “live broadcast,” Putin said his new deadlines were 2012 and 2013.  So, he’s just given himself an extra year on each.

Putin says the military’s mortgage savings program now has 180,000 participants, and 20,000 apartments have been acquired through it.

He also notes that regions and municipalities won’t have broken down military towns and infrastructure foisted upon them.

Next, manning. 

Putin gives the familiar figures–there are 220,000 officers and 186,000 sergeants and soldiers who now serve on contracts.  Over five years, the army will try to recruit 50,000 professional soldiers each year. 

Selection, Putin says, will be strict, and contractees will be trained in special centers and sergeant schools.

In the reported one-million-man Russian Armed Forces, 700,000 personnel will be professionals by 2017.  Conscripts will be reduced to 145,000 by 2020.

Putin says the mixed contract-conscript system of manning used for quite some time was just a compromise because Russia couldn’t afford an all-volunteer army.

However, politicians and generals always extolled the mixed system because it retained a universal obligation (at least theoretically) and kept the military from becoming “mercenaries.”

Putin endorses military police and priests in the ranks to keep order among remaining conscripts.  He also promises those who serve as draftees assistance with education and preferences in entering the government service.

The Prime Minister admits Russia lacks a concept for its national military reserve system, and developing one is a near-term task.

Although the course is set for a professional contract army, Putin still wants young men to prepare for service.  So don’t forget about military-patriotic indoctrination, military-applied sports, and DOSAAF.

And Putin indicates he supports Deputy PM Dmitriy Rogozin’s proposal for a Volunteer Movement of the National Front in Support of the Army, Navy, and OPK.

Part III will be the final five pages on the OPK.

Curious Coincidence

Danila Chaykin

IA Regnum reported today that a Russian conscript serving in Tajikistan apparently shot himself to death on January 29 while pulling guard duty.  A sad though fairly routine occurrence.  The reasons are unclear.  The unfortunate young man, Danila Chaykin, seemed to be doing well in the service.

But Chaykin wasn’t just any conscript.  He previously served alongside Ruslan Ayderkhanov in the Yelan military garrison.  You’ll recall several months ago Ayderkhanov was apparently savagely beaten before his attackers hanged him to make it look like he committed suicide.

According to the press agency, Chaykin was a witness in whatever investigation of Ayderkhanov’s death took place.  But Ayderkhanov’s case was closed when military investigators almost unbelievably concluded there was no evidence of dedovshchina or other barracks violence.  They say he hung himself for personal reasons.

Recapping Interfaks and Life.ru coverage, Lenta says military officials suggest Chaykin took his life because his girlfriend married someone else.  But his friends say he didn’t have a girl, and he was due to demob in a couple months.  Meanwhile, Life.ru claims Chaykin had six gunshot wounds on his body.

Lenta’s version says Chaykin and Ayderkhanov were friends, and the former was questioned about the latter’s death.  Then they transferred Chaykin to Tajikistan.

Transfers of one-year conscripts are pretty rare in the Russian Army, though not unheard of when it comes to manning units in Tajikistan.

It seems a really curious coincidence that Chaykin too would kill himself.  Or was it a move to silence an inconvenient witness?

It’s odd too that the Ayderkhanov case — a case of patently obvious abuse –would die so quietly and completely.

Why does the Russian military, or someone higher up, want to conceal the truth about what happened at Yelan?  The authorities are very nervous about crimes that take place on a “national” [i.e. ethnic] basis.  It’s been postulated that Ayderkhanov was targeted because he was Tatar.

As recently as five or six years ago, there were people who would fight for answers and accountability.  One fears there are fewer today.  Maybe fear itself is greater now.

No One to Call (Part II)

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.

Rodyukov concludes:

“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.