Staunton, September 22 – In an interview in Moskovsky komsomolets, Defense Minister Sergey Shoyu says that is “possible” that the government could end the military draft and go over to all volunteer professional army but that he personally “does not consider such a decision correct” (mk.ru/politics/2019/09/22/sergey-shoygu-rasskazal-kak-spasali-rossiyskuyu-armiyu.html).
Shoygu said that he is “absolutely convinced that a certain number of military personnel must be draftees in any case.” That is necessary to create a large reserve of people who could be mobilized quickly in the event of war. And he argued that the draft is necessary because it promotes patriotism among those who pass through the ranks.
At the same time, he conceded that “the Russian army will in the future inevitably become more professional.” Already today, Shoygu told the paper, “the number of professionals among ordinary soldiers and the sergeants corps exceeds the number who are serving because of the draft.”
That trend has happened and will continue to happen because ever more modern military technology requires longer and longer periods of training, periods beyond the length of time that Russian draftees now spend in uniform. There is no reason to think that this will change anytime soon.
Shoygu’s words are part of the longstanding dispute between the officer corps which overwhelmingly prefers a mass army of the Soviet type and officials who would like to make the military smaller and more professional so that military service would not have an adverse effect on the economy.
Other Russian experts agree with Shoygu with some saying that the draft will continue I Russia for 20 or even 40 years, however unpopular it may be with some young men. Demography may force a change, however, if the share of non-Russians among 18-year-olds continues to rise.
Then, officers who want a predominantly ethnic Russian military will have to decide whether they can best achieve that by using the draft or by recruiting and retaining personnel in a different way.
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