Attrition: December 20, 2004
Russia is having serious manpower problems in its armed forces. This is particularly the case with conscripts. In addition to a large percentage of conscripts who bribe their way out of serving, others simply dont show up. Fortunately, Russia has reduced its armed forces so much, that the shrinking pool of conscripts is still sufficient to provide the manpower needed. But the quality of the conscripts that do show up is troubling. Of the most recent group of 176,000 18-27 year old men to show up, five percent had criminal convictions and 2.7 percent were drug addicts. About a third were unemployed and 53 percent had various medical problems which made them ineligible for service in elite units like the Spetsnaz (commandos) or FSB (elite security guards for the Russian CIA). There is still an intractable problem with older troops abusing new conscripts. Russia now believes that the only way to eliminate that is to go with an all-volunteer force. But that is expensive, and even with the growing economy, an all-volunteer force is at least a decade away. So meanwhile, a third to half of Russian troops are career professionals, or carefully selected (and higher paid) "contract soldiers" (volunteers), while the rest are conscripts of very variable quality.