Staunton, March 25 – At present, Russians who reach age 27 without having served in the military are no longer subject to the draft; and those who do successfully avoid such service pay few penalties in civilian life. But the combination of the decline of the size of this age cohort and Vladimir Putin’s military agenda, both those things may change.
Leaders of the Duma defense committee say that before the end of this year, they will consider legislation to make Russian subject to the draft until the age of 30 and to deny government employment to those who do not serve either because of deferments or other exemptions (gazeta.ru/army/2017/03/23/10590953.shtml#page3).
Such changes would simultaneous hurt the Russian economy by removing from economic and reproductive activity more young people and infuriate many who believe that they are serving their country in other capacities. Indeed, these changes would likely cost the Russian military some of the nearly universal respect it now has.
Demography almost certainly is the primary driver behind these plans: the size of the draft-age cohort is falling and is slated to fall further in the years ahead. But perhaps almost as important is Putin’s military program, one that requires a larger military than a more pacific policy would have.
What remains to be seen is whether this proposal, coming just before the scheduled presidential elections, will spark dissent from those who think the military casts too large a shadow on the lives of Russians already and who will thus argue for a less aggressive stance in international affairs.