Thursday, October 3, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Still Not Drafting North Caucasians Despite Manpower Shortages

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 3 – Even though the Russian military is not able to fill one in every five of its authorized slots and Moscow has boosted its draft quota this fall by 10,000, the Russian authorities are not drafting anything like the percentage of the large draft-age cohort in the North Caucasus even as they take higher percentages in predominantly Russian areas.

            This pattern reflects the preferences of the Russian command not to have North Caucasians in the military lest they cause command and control problems.  But it produces two other far larger problems in addition to making it far more difficult for the military to meet its draft quotas, a problem that experts say will only grow in the out years.

            On the one hand, not drafting significant numbers of North Caucasians sends a message to that region that Moscow does not consider its people reliable or fully part of the Russian Federation.  And on the other, it offends many ethnic Russians who have to pay a higher tax of this kind by sending a disproportionate share of their young people into the military.

            In an article in “Nezavisimaya gazeta” yesterday, Vladimir Mukhin says that Moscow plans to draft more than 150,000 in the fall cycle that began October 1, 10,000 more than it took in a year ago. But despite that increase, the military will still be able to fill only 82 percent of its slots (

            Nor Mukhin continues is there any chance that this deficit will be made up by professionals as some had hoped. The economic crisis and the sequester of government funds even for defense means that the planned expansion of the army by 50,000 professional soldiers will not happen.

            The draft situation was recently made worse by a decision not to draft young men from the regions of the Russian Far East which have suffered from some of the worst flooding in history, but the biggest constraint, the “Nezavisimaya gazeta” journalist says, is that the Russian general staff is not exploiting the large draft pools in the North Caucasus.

            In Chechnya, the republic military commissariat says, there are more than 80,000 in that pool, many of whom are ready and anxious to serve because military service is a path toward a career in the police.  But as of now, the Chechen authorities have not been given a plan for the draft, although they may get one and take some more Chechens than they have in the past.

            A similar situation exists in Daghestan.  There, the republic military commissar Daytbeg Mustfayev say, he is ready “at a moment’s notice to send up to 30,000 draftees” for service.  But this fall, he has been asked to send only 1500 – a number that is twice the one taken last spring but still very small.

            “A simple calculation shows,” Mukhin continues, “that drawing only on draftees from Chechnya and Daghestan, Moscow could significantly increase the percentage of slots in the Russian army it could fill.” But Russian commanders don’t want to do this, and the Russian political authorities are not insisting.

            Eduard Rodyukov, a colonel who works at the Academy of Military Sciences, says that “in the Russian army as in Russian society many are afraid of people from the Caucasus.  This Caucasophobia is a sign of the weakness of our state and of its leadership,” who should be glad to use the willing North Caucasians given rising draft resistance elsewhere.

            “The leadership of the country knows about this but somehow has not decided to make a decision.  This is a crisis of administration.  The current approach is decomposing Russian society, making it amorphous and divided.”

            An officer in the defense ministry who spoke on conditions of anonymity added that “in the country and the army, the word ‘internationalism’ has become a curse. And the formation of multi-national military collectives where those from the central regions of the country serve on an equal basis with those born in the North Caucasus is not welcomed.”

            Such attitudes affect not only the composition of the lower ranks but also those t the top. “At the level of the central apparatus … there are almost no officers who are from Daghestan and Chechnya.” In Soviet times, there were, and such people were effective. “No one then feared that some one of our soldiers or officers would go over to the side of the mujahidin” in Afghanistan.

            And he concluded: “Mono-ethnic and basically Slavic military units is a path to nowhere. This is a reason for the Caucasians themselves to consider such units in their homeland as occupiers.  Such [policies and feelings] in the multi-national Russian state should not be.”


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