Russian military in urgent need of conscripts – report
Unnamed sources in the ministry have told the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper that Defense chief Sergey Shoigu is upset by a recent report on the situation in the military submitted by the Deputy Head of the General Staff Vasily Smirnov. Smirnov’s report says that the military are lacking between 40 and 60 percent of staff and only the Southern Military District is manned to 90 of 95 percent. The report also reiterated the generals’ worries that planned cuts in staffing will change the structure of the national defense system when the country is not fully ready. The army needs new weapons and better training to ensure the quality boost when the quantity it being reduced. However, the Russian state program on rearming the military has just started and will last till 2020. Thus, in order to maintain the national defense potential, the generals want to stick to the “human factor” – or in simple words – tighten the draft rules and possibly prolong the length of conscription service. The Defense Ministry has promised to raise the number of contract servicemen every year potentially bringing the number of conscripts to about 15 percent of the total number, but the General Staff insists on immediate action. According to the military, the number of draft dodgers is currently about 166 000, but specialists warn that even if they all are summoned, the military would still be under manned due to falling demographics. One possible solution could be a return to longer service terms. The Chairman of the Lower House defense committee Communist MP and Navy Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov said in a press interview that he intended to persuade Shoigu to raise the term to 18 months from the current 12 months. However, Komoyedov has voiced this intent many times before, the only result being the irritation of the general public.The public outcry caused the Admiral to admit that the initiative was his personal position not a political by the Lower House.Commenting on the latest Komoyedov’s statement, the Deputy Head of the General Staff Vasily Smirnov said that his agency never planned, and is not planning, to draft any suggestions to increase the terms of conscription service. “One year service is determined by the law,” the general said.A high-placed source in the Kremlin was quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency as saying that the shorter conscription service was Vladimir Putin’s promise to the Russian people. The terms were cut first to 18 months and then to 1 year, the promise is fulfilled and currently there are no plans to change anything, the source said.