Staunton, December 26 – The Russian government is now developing the rules governing the operation of the military-construction companies Vladimir Putin created by decree two months ago, Vladimir Mukhin says. They appear certain to be Soviet-style construction battalions in all but name.
According to the Nezavisimaya gazeta observer, the units will be deployed not only to build military installations but also economically strategic facilities, especially in distant regions where it is difficult and expensive to attract labor and will thus fill the role of Spetsstroy organization disbanded because of corruption (ng.ru/politics/2019-12-26/1_7763_army.html).
The new bodies will not be called construction battalions, probably because that term was abolished by the authorities in 2006, but they will fulfill many of the same functions both within the military and in the civilian economy. For high tech jobs, professional soldiers will be used; for most others, draftees, experts say.
Among the first places the latter are likely to be deployed will be on the construction of the second branch of the Baikal-Amur Mainline. Such soldiers are much cheaper to use than ordinary workers; and at a time of economic stringency, that is their chief attraction to the powers that be, Mukhin suggests.
Thus, it appears certain to turn out that the work Soviet construction battalions were engaged in 40 years ago will now be continued by Russian stroibats now and in the future.
Mukhin does not address one aspect of this situation that may be especially important. In Soviet times, commanders often sent soldiers from non-Russian and especially Muslim regions to such battalions in order to keep them out of the regular army where it was felt they would undermine unit cohesion.
Whether Russian commanders will do the same remains to be seen, but there is no good reason to assume that they won’t.