Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Economic Crisis Making Military Service and Careers More Attractive to Russians

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 24 – The negative impacts of economic crises attract more attention, but when a country suffers such problems, there are always some sectors that benefit. In Russia today, one of those is the military where the chance for a regular paycheck and benefits is currently attracting more men to the colors.

            That is especially important for two reasons, commentator Anton Chaplin says. On the one hand, Russia finds itself in a demographic “pit” where there are fewer young men of draft age.  And on the other, the increasing technological skills soldiers and sailors need now makes a professional military a necessity (yug.svpressa.ru/war21/article/135849/).

            In 2015, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said recently, the number of professional soldiers in the Russian military exceeded the number of draftees by 30 percent; and he predicted further rise in the number of the former and a decline in the number of the latter this year and in the future.

            According to the General Staff, professionals now form the entire corps of sergeants and of uniformed personnel serving on Russian submarines. This year, Chablin continues, the generals say they plan to make the staffing of those serving on surface ships completely professional as well.

            This transformation from the draftee-based military on which the Soviet and then the Russian government have relied is “connected in the first instance with the situation in the economy,” the commentator says.  Given the economic crisis “and growing unemployment, ever more young people are ready to link their future with the arm where they are guaranteed high pay and benefits.” Moreover, the defense ministry says that the military budget will not be cut.

            The economic crisis is also having an impact on those subject to the draft. Since the crisis began, Chablin says, “the number of those seeking to avoid service has been falling. The army,” he insists, “is again becoming popular.” And there are now approximately a million men under arms, although the defense ministry doesn’t release exact figures on that.

            In addition to moving toward a more professional military, the defense ministry under Shoygu is seeking to promote a more educated one as well given the technologies that soldiers, sailors and officers must use. This involves both the restoration of military chairs in higher educational institutions – there are now 68 – and building up military training academies.

            Up to now, Moscow has not been entirely successful in promoting civilian higher schools as a major preparatory channel for officers and men: Last year, 58,000 young men were supposed to be studying in the military departments of the civilian higher educational institutions, but only 13,000 were doing so.

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