Staunton, June 12 – The Russian defense ministry is changing the rules for the draft so that it can call to the colors those who could not meet current health requirements, experts say; but meanwhile, some young men are bribing draft boards to take them in so they can get the military ticket they need for future careers.
Even though the Russian draft quota is falling as Moscow shifts toward a professional army, it still faces difficulties in getting all the draftees it needs. Consequently, the defense ministry is making it possible for soldiers initially rejected on health grounds to request a review and to serve if their problems are deemed minor (ura.news/articles/1036275191).
Given that in recent years, nearly a third of those in the draft cohort – approximately 170,000 in all – are excused for health reasons, such a lowering of standards would likely make it far easier for the military to meet its needs. But experts fear that it will lower the quality of soldiers and possibly undermine unit cohesion.
Academician Aleksey Arbatov of IMEMO worries that the military is less worried about that than about filling its quotas. Aleksandr Zhilin of the Moscow Center for the Study of Applied Problems of National Security says he is concerned that the draft boards will soon be ordered to pass as fit those that should not be.
But Mikhail Timoshenko, a Moscow military expert, says that he can understand the position of the ministry: many young men will suffer severe career limitations if they do not have military service; and consequently, they will be eager to take a chance of gaining it if their health problems aren’t severe, especially now that the term of service is down to one year.
Indeed, as Svobodnaya pressa reports, in some places, young men are not only trying this method of getting drafted but even paying bribes to the military commissions in the hopes of being drafted (vpressa.ru/war21/article/202512/). That is especially the case in the North Caucasus where the percentage of 18 to 21-year olds being drafted is smaller than elsewhere (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/04/demography-and-economics-shape-russian.html).
At least some North Caucasians are desperate to get their military ticket because only those who have one can serve in the local police, often the best job available to them. But the Russian military, fearful of having too many Muslim soldiers, has kept draft quotas in the North Caucasus far lower, lest the Muslims form too large a share of the Russian army.