Staunton, January 3 – In a move that reflects both Russia’s demographic problems and Moscow’s desire to restore an imperial relationship with its neighbors, Vladimir Putin yesterday issued a decree that will allow citizens of foreign countries who know Russian to serve in the Russian military.
According to Putin’s decree, any citizen of another country above the age of 18 can be incuded in the ranks of the Russian army on a contract basis and can be used in military operations (mk.ru/politics/2015/01/03/putin-razreshil-inostrancam-sluzhit-v-rossiyskoy-armii-rekrut-dolzhen-znat-russkiy-yazyk.html).
The decree which went into force at the time of its signing specifies that such a foreign citizen can apply either to the military commissariat where he is registered or “directly into a military unit,” the latter arrangement opening the way to potential abuses of the kind that the Russian Soldiers Mothers Committees have reported on in the past.
The applicant must know Russian, the decree says, and cannot be charged with a crime or be at risk of incarceration if a judgment is rendered against him, presumably a protection for the Russian military against the possibility that individuals might join up and then be subject to recall by their governments in such instances.
The new arrangement will help the Russian military fill its manpower requirements in the coming years when the number of Russians in the prime draft age cohort is projected to decline, and it will allow Moscow to begin to include men from allied countries within its own army, setting the stage for new moves toward greater integration of the post-Soviet space.
Despite those compelling reasons, Putin’s decision to issue the decree now is somewhat surprising. Two months ago, a proposal along many of the same lines by Duma deputy Roman Khudyakov of Zhirinovsky’s LDPR party was sharply criticized by other deputies and experts