Staunton, April 6 – By delaying the spring draft from April to May rather than cancelling it altogether, Moscow risks “provoking a second wave of the epidemic when 135 newly drafted men are sent to the barracks” where any who are infected with the coronavirus are likely to infect others and provoke “a second wave of the epidemic,” Aleksandr Golts says.
In an analysis for The New Times, the independent military observer says that it might have seemed that cancelling the spring draft would have been a no brainer considering the much tougher steps that the Russian authorities have taken. “But no,” the generals got there way and the draft will go forward with only a slight delay (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/192817?fcc).
For these senior commanders, it is clear, Golts argues, “the prospect of leaving the force without 135,000 new draftees was more horrible than the very high probability that the military commissariats and assembly points will be transformed into breeding grounds of infection.”
The generals overseeing the draft have tried to cover themselves by suggesting that the commissariats will take the temperature of soldiers who seem ill, but there is no indication that the Russian military is in any way ready to test such a number of draftees for infection with the coronavirus.
However, “even if one assumes the impossible” and the military’s taking of temperatures ensures that “only healthy draftees pass through the draft commission, where is the guarantee that after several days or even a few weeks, they will come to the assembly point and not be infectious?” Golts asks.
The reason the Russian generals have been pushing so hard for the draft to go forward is two-fold. On the one hand, they don’t want their past lies about the number of professional soldiers in the military to be exposed. If there were no draft this cycle, their claims would be seen for the falsehoods that they are.
And on the other, the defense ministry now that Russia is entering a new cold war with NATO has gone back to the Soviet model of mass mobilization, one in which it will maintain skeleton divisions that will be fully manned by those who have served as draftees but are now in civilian life.
That model allows the high command to justify a large number of senior officers to oversee divisions that are little more than hollow shells even though the assumption that those who have served a year or two in the ranks will be ready, willing and able to return in the event of a crisis in far-fetched.
Nonetheless, that is what the Russian generals care about; and they have convinced Putin to back them on this risky venture of having a draft which may turn into a fiasco for the health of the country.